26 April 2010

Toaster training?

Hot-on-the-heels of the training undertaken by all new conductors to the railway industry, the online media have been very interested in an incident that took place at King's Cross train station last week. Commuters and leisure travellers were subjected to hours of delays following staff in the station's canteen allowing toast to burn, setting off the fire alarm and unwittingly instigating a major incident on not one but two occasions recently.

The Law of Sod dictates that if something is likely to go wrong, it will do so at the most inopportune moment, a belief nevermore reaffirmed at the timing of the two incidents - 0800 and 1800, both slap-bang in the middle of peak commuter times.

The first incident took place on 13 March and the second on 7 April. On both occasions, the entire mainline station was closed for 20 minutes, along with the King's Cross St. Pancras Underground station, affecting six Tube lines and as a precaution Eurostar services were also halted and passengers there evacuated.

The tragedy that took place at King's Cross back in the 1980s was one of the worst fires to happen at a mainline railway station, leaving 31 dead when a stray cigarette butt, discarded in an escalator shaft, caught fire at 1830 on 18 November 1987. The escalator shaft dated back to the 1930s and was partly made of wood which added to the speed at which the fire spread and the collapse of the escalator itself. Since then, King's Cross has unwittingly been synonymous with major tragedies on London's transport system; its Underground station being the last served by one of the Tube trains bombed on 7 July 2005 and the source of countless hoaxes.

It also didn't fair well for Boudica, whose body was recently claimed to be buried under one of the platforms, following a discovery of Roman artifacts there.

A total toast ban has been called for by London Travelwatch, if only to stop similar instances of needless disruption reoccurring, while Transport for London took a more sterile view, simply confirming that on two occasions now, burning toast in the station's mess room had sounded the fire alarms. The LEYTR Stig, who's very much in-the-know here, told us: "Steps have been taken to ensure this doesn't happen again..." and added, "those careless enough to leave toast unattended have been dealt with in accordance with their employer's disciplinary procedures". This would imply, would it not, that they could be agency workers.

Would a complete toast ban suffice? We think not. Only two months ago, the Caledonian Road station on the Piccadilly Line was forced to close after a member of staff there used the oven to stow his unwanted food, only for a subsequent meal-maker to turn the oven on to heat up and setting alight to four custard creams and a box of Rice Krispies!


1 comment:

paulravulanterna said...

My employer (a premium rail service serving Heathrow) has always enforced a toaster ban in all rest rooms at the airport. The only food to be prepared by staff in the rest rooms must be microwavable. That said, one of our managers wasn't impressed by a staff member preparing popcorn in the microwave as the fumes from this can also set off fire systems. So no matter how many precautions you take there will always be someone that finds a new way to cause potential havoc!