Is shunting the most dangerous job in the rail industry? It certainly seems that way to Dave, newly married and newly confined to a wheelchair. He now has all the time in the world to think about the risks of rushing. He will never return to the maintenance depot, never again be part of that close- knit group of workmates whose attitudes and behaviours helped create the culture that set up the most unimaginable consequences for him. And never again will he say “it’ll be fine” when no-one has taken the time to ask “what if?”
Sally: Hang on a second – you were driving this train?
Dave: No. My mate Mick was driving the pilot engine. I was his shunter.
Sally: On the train?
Dave: No, you walk in front of the train. You change the points so he ends up on the right road. (PAUSE) It was raining. Torrential and the wind driving the rain straight into my face. I was right at the end of my shift and I wasn’t best pleased. Mick was going really slow, taking the piss so I got even more soaked. By the time we got to C14 points, I was like a drowned rat. I was on the opposite side of the track from the points handle so I crossed over in front of the dead unit. That’s when it all went wrong. I slipped on a sleeper and went arse over tit. I banged my head and I must have blacked out. It can’t have been long. Ten seconds perhaps. I came to and I felt sick and I thought Jesus me head hurts! Then I realised the rail under me was vibrating and I turned my head and saw……. after that there was a moment of agony and then nothing. I must have blacked out….. (PAUSE) Mick’s still off sick they tell me. Poor bugger. Wasn’t his fault.