I thought it was time for another fun example of incident management and our adventure on the Nene Valley Railway (NVR) yesterday fits the bill perfectly. Setting off from Wansford we happily chugged West but, turning around at Yarwell Junction, the steam engine suffered a mechanical fault. This would not normally be a major problem but, because of the heavy snowfall, it was not practical to evacuate passengers on foot to the nearest road. Another locomotive was available back at Wansford but this was a diesel so passengers had to wait, as the temperature in the carriages fell, whilst someone who could drive it was located. The NVR staff were great throughout, keeping passengers informed of progress and supplying hot drinks but people were understandably anxious until, after about an hour, the diesel locomotive arrived to rescue them. All in all, an exciting morning’s adventure.
This simple, fun example illustrates a number of important general points about incident management. As in more serious incidents, the situation arose through a conjunction of multiple, unrelated, events – cold weather and mechanical failure – either one on its own would have been easily dealt with. It is impossible to plan for all the potential conjunctions of events so it is important to ensure that incident management plans are flexible. The flow of good and bad news was also very reminiscent of more major events: early hopes of repairing the steam engine faded; over-optimistic estimates of how quickly the diesel could reach the stranded passengers had to be adjusted; and, towards the end, the prospect of the steam engine running out of water and all heat to the carriages being lost emerged. But most importantly, and rather better than some larger train operators in the past, NVR staff grasped the vital importance of good communication and looking after their customers – well done!