The train driver now striking . . .

Click to follow
In the long litany of excuses for delayed trains, Great Western Trains, yesterday created a new category - the wrong sort of argument. The result was a one- man strike by a driver peeved at having been told off by a Railtrack manager.

The altercation, which the hapless conductor on the 7.04 am Hereford to Paddington described as "a farce and a fiasco", followed an incident down the line when a signal worker reported the driver for not having followed safety procedures.

Passengers had to wait for three quarters of an hour at Moreton-in-Marsh because the driver, known only as shift number B Rd62, refused to continue with the journey until he was exonerated. The conductor told passengers on the almost full service that there had been a dispute and, according to a passenger, said: "there are allegations against the driver and the driver is refusing to take the train further until the dispute has been resolved".

One passenger who was on the train said: "Fortunately, it was a very sunny morning and Moreton-in-Marsh is a pleasant little station, so people were more amused than angry".

Mr Ritchie said that after the delay, the conductor announced that they had held a kangaroo court at the side of the track and "we have decided that the driver can take the train to Reading [an unscheduled stop] where he will be relieved of his duties." He blamed privatisation: "In the old days he would have just been told to drive on, but now it took two managers to sort out the problem, one from Railtrack and one from Great Western."

The problem started at Evesham, the start of a single line part of the track where the driver must collect a token to be allowed to proceed, ensuring that no oncoming train is on the line. However, the signal worker, who due to a technical problem had to give the token personally to the driver rather than let him collect it from a box, thought that the train had started off before he had given it clearance. In fact, the driver had been through the signal before collecting the token.

The signal worker alerted his manager and the argument at Moreton-in- Marsh ensued.

A spokesman for Great Western Trains said last night that the incident had to be investigated before the driver could proceed and that no action would be taken against the driver.