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Nutter on the tube

Dear Reader,

This morning much to my irritation there was a computer malfunction in my home, a computer was refusing to talk to the DNS (Domain Name Server) via a particular wireless network. I tried the test of using that network to visit a web site I have never visited before using my laptop. This is to try to work out if it was the computer or the network which was at fault. I then saw a truly horrible story.

A drunken thug pushed a man off a tube platform onto the track, he was later jailed for ten years. Judge Richard Hone QC said: “What you did, as you can see on the CCTV, was really shocking. You must have foreseen and been determined to cause serious bodily harm”. I have to agree with Richard Hone that this was a terrible act something which is truly unacceptable.

I think that the drunken thug should consider himself lucky not to have been convicted of a more serious offence (murder). Twice in my life I have arrived at a railway station shortly after a person has fallen under a moving train. When I was a second year undergraduate at Imperial College I once went to the Turnham Green tube station to start my journal to IC. I saw a great circus of activity at the tube station including a HGV marked with something which as “Emergency Passenger Services”. I later that evening asked a railway worker at the tube station what had happened, he told me that a person had been run over by a train and sadly they did not survive. The other time was in my first year in Sweden when at about 06:15 someone decided to jump in front of a X2000 high speed train, this event closed down the whole of the railway station so I had to make alternative arrangements to get to work.

Now what has happened in this film is that the victim was thrown off the platform he bonced off the -200 volt rail which is between the two rails on which the wheels go and he lands in the safety trench. I have to admit I winced when I saw him strike the live rail.

If you ever find yourself on tube track keep in mind that if you land in the safety trench then the safest action may well be to remain there keeping away from any rails. It may be best to wait until a railway worker helps you out off of the track. What ever you do, do not touch the live rails as you climb out. I winced a second time when the man used the -200 volt rail as a hand hold as he pulled himself up. He was very lucky to be wearing rubber shoes and not to touch anything else as he pulled himself up.

I would like to warn you that while at 200 or 400 volts rubber shoes can offer some protection against electric shock, they are useless if you touch something else at the same time as you touch the live conductor. Also at high voltages such as 10000 volts rubber boots tend to conduct electricity with ease. It is important to note that many rubber products contain carbon black as a pigment and this increases the conductivity of these items a lot. So never trust a normal rubber shoe or glove with high voltages.

In Sweden the overhead power wire is at about 15000 volts while in the UK it is normally at about 22000 volts. While the UK uses 50 Hz AC the Swedes use 16.6 Hz for railway supplies.

If you find yourself on a railway track without a trench such as a normal overground track with wooden or concrete sleepers, then it is very important to get out of the gap between the two running wheels. I have been told by a railway worker that there is never much clearance under a train, he told me that the most important thing if you are in a tunnel doing work and you hear a train coming is to get out of the gap between the running rails. He even advised that as a last ditch measure you should lay face down between two rail tracks but never on top of the sleepers.

I have never had to do this, and I sincerely hope that neither you or me have to do so. I imagine that by staying away from railway track (not crossing at unapproved points) that you will greatly reduce your chance of being run down by a train. I also do not know if the British railway worker who told me about 20 years ago was well informed or not so I would not want to trust his advice about sheltering between tracks, but looking at the front of a train I suspect that he was right that it is impossible to shelter between the rails on top of the sleepers. If any railway workers are reading I would value their thoughts on this issue.


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