A First for me

Hey everybody, a rare entry from me!

As I am sure you are all aware industrial action plagues our industry at the moment. For full disclosure I support everybody’s right to strike and stand in solidarity with all my colleagues.

It seems in the absence of passenger services on some routes, network rail have taken the opportunity to block lines and carry out maintenance and repairs. Some may say that common sense has made a rare appearance on the railway!

Due to the aforementioned line blocks, for the first time in my driving career I have to carry out a procedure know as single line working.

Working for a private freight operator that isn’t a puppet for the DFT we are not involved in any sort of industrial action and therefore it is business as usual for myself. My duties for the day consisted of working 0Y09 formed of 66796 on a route proving trip all around Sussex. A pointless exercise in my humble opinion, but that is my opinion alone and may not reflect that of any other companies.

The line between Redhill and Gatwick airport, a 4 track section had been closed for maintenance work, however a single line was available for traffic. The problem here is that the up slow line was the only available line, and my train was at this point a down train. The line in question isn’t signalled for bi directional operations, therefore trains can normally only run in the up direction over it.

Being resourceful on the railway we have a whole rule book module that is devoted to allowing us to use a single line for trains trailing in either direction. This is known as single line working. Single line working is one of those things that happens as often as a Tory transport minister tells the truth! It’s covered in the rules when you learn to drive a train, and you practice it from time to time in simulators. The procedure can be compared to “driving safely on the wrong side of the motorway”

On arriving at Redhill I was met by a pilot, being I was travelling to Gatwick this was very fitting! Obviously I am talking about a railway pilot, previously known as a pilotman the pilot is in charge of the single line and is the only person who can authorise you into the single line section.

Boarding my loco the Pilot dictates a form to me (attached) known as a single line working ticket. The form details exactly what is to happen and between what points. It gives me details of any signals on the route which are to be disregarded and those that are to be obeyed. It tells me my maximum speeds, and details any hand signallers and level crossings that I may encounter and what to do when I encountered them.

Todays form was relatively simple, with only a handful of points and a couple of ground position light signals to obey. Once in possession of the form and a clear understating, the pilot contacts the signaller who will then authorise you past a signal at danger to allow you onto the single line. In normal cases the signaller won’t be able to clear the signal as you are going the wrong way! Today however a shunt move was a liable from my signal onto the up slow line, so the signaller was able to clear the shunt signal for me to proceed.

The pilot chose to ride with me today as they had an up train at Gatwick to see through the section . The pilot doesn’t have to ride with you so long as you have the form, it’s a bit like token working.

Proceeding along the single line section, I checked all the signals numbers against the form to check that I was disregarding the right ones. Disregarding a signal not on the form would be a spad!

Just before Gatwick a hand-signaller displayed a yellow flag, authorising me back onto the correct line. This actually meant continuing straight along the same line, as the line became bi directional.

Writing canceled across my single line working ticket, I stopped at the platform to allow the pilot to alight. and continued on my merry way.

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