The Railways: 'Station staff will be glad when this year is over'

Gavin Smith works for Railtrack as a manager at Paddington station
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Looking back to the beginning of the year, the staff at Paddington had the Ladbroke Grove accident on their minds. Everyone was professional about it, but they were still deeply affected. On 5 October - the first anniversary of the crash - we had a minute's silence at 8.11am; it was an emotional time, particularly for those who were involved on the day.

Looking back to the beginning of the year, the staff at Paddington had the Ladbroke Grove accident on their minds. Everyone was professional about it, but they were still deeply affected. On 5 October - the first anniversary of the crash - we had a minute's silence at 8.11am; it was an emotional time, particularly for those who were involved on the day.

Our other annual service is the wreath-laying on 11 November, at the war memorial beyond platform one, near the old clock. It's a lovely service, and this year a bugler played. We also had the unveiling of a small statue of Paddington Bear, with the author of the stories, Michael Bond, in attendance.

Someone else I met this year was David Ginola, the footballer, who was here for a publicity shoot for the Heath-row Express. He asked where the make-up artist and the changing rooms were, and we had to say we didn't have anything like that. I managed to get his autograph for a couple of people, and I asked him how his landmine campaign was going. He replied: "Eet eez good".

Up until the last few months, the year had been uneventful. But since then it has been fairly challenging. We handle about 100,000 passengers a day, and a lot of the team have put in long hours in quite stressful situations: all credit to them. For anyone on the front line, our prime function in looking after the customers is to make sure they are kept informed. Recently, you find that you print out a timetable and then one of your key lines is washed away in a flood, and it all changes again. We have every sympathy with travellers who have been disrupted. Some people can be difficult, but most understand the reasons for what's going on. What they won't tolerate is wrong information.

On a personal note, this has been a good year for me: I got married on 26 August. But on a professional level, I think most railwaymen and women won't be sorry to see the back of 2000. We'd rather move forward to 2001.

Comments