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Sunshine on the line??


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Misery for commuters as bright sunshine delays train


Rush hour commuters delayed for up to half an hour were astonished to be told their trains had been held up because the sun was too bright. The passengers, familiar with previous infamous seasonal excuses for delays including 'leaves on the line', and 'the wrong kind of snow', thought they had heard it all until rail operator c2c revealed the bizarre new explanation for late-running services.

The railway company claimed that a train driver had to be given a hand by station staff at Laindon in Essex after complaining the sun's glare made it impossible to check in a mirror on the platform if anyone was getting in or out of the carriages.

As well as causing hold ups to passengers on the train concerned, those behind it on the line between Southend and Fenchurch Street in London were delayed for up to 30 minutes.

One puzzled commuter said: 'This is the first time I've heard delays blamed on the sun - although I suppose it does make more sense UK trains would be less prepared for good weather than bad.'

The rail company blamed the Wednesday morning delays on a 'freak occurence' caused by the bright sun and the position of the mirrors on platform two at Laindon station in Essex.

Up to 100 passengers on the 7.52am to Fenchurch Street had to wait seven minutes at the station before they finally left. And their delay meant a queue of trains built up, delaying others for more than three times as long.

When all trains had guards, platformmirrors were not necessary. But in this age of driver-only trains, a mirror has to be used so the driver can check from his seat whether anyone is getting on or off the train as he prepares to leave the station.

A spokesman for c2c said: 'Depending on which way the sun is shining and how bright it is, very occasionally it can provide a glare on the mirror which some drivers can't see past.

'Yesterday morning it was piercingly bright. Normally the driver sits in his cab and presses the horn, the doors will close and he will move on.

'In this case he couldn't see in the mirrors on the station. There are safety procedures which are put in place and that puts extra time on the journey.

'We will always put safety first and if that means causing 10 to 12 minutes' delay that is what will happen. At no time was anyone in danger.'

He said only one train was affected by the glare but the trains behind were held up while the first train was moved on.

The spokesman said the event was very unusual.

'It's very very rare,' he said. 'Yesterday morning was an extremely bright morning and there was very little cloud, it was a combination of the brightness of the sun and the angle of the mirrors.

'It was a freak occurence whereby the driver had this problem and didn't feel confident about moving on so special procedures were put in place.'

Rail companies have previously claimed that 'leaves on the line' in autumn have held up trains, and that 'the wrong kind of snow' on the tracks in winter have caused delays.

Three years ago Network Rail blamed the 'wrong kind of soil' for delays in the summer, saying that a heatweave had dried out clay beneath the London to Birmingham line, shifting a ten-mile section of track.

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