A Night in the Life of a Tunnel Engineer

Last nights work or, as it could also be called; Why everything on the railways costs an utter fortune. The one fact you need to know before reading is this, whenever you work on the railway you need to be accompanied by a COSS, the man responsible for making sure you don’t die.

Arrive on site at 23:30 ready for a midnight start. At this point you discover that your COSS went home after being incorrectly told the work had been cancelled. While a backup COSS was arranged he’s been stolen by the rat-men who want to spend the night killing rats in one of the stations. Fight with the supervisor and eventually get your COSS back. By this time is 23:50 so you know your going to be late on site.

COSS turns up and says ‘wait here while I get the paper work done’. You wait. And Wait. Then get some coffee and wait some more. Eventually at 00:45 he comes back and you ask “You did get an isolation didn’t you?” (Isolation basically meaning, turned the power off). No he did not, despite all your paperwork saying the power has to be turned off. He goes off to sort that out. You wait some more then eventually he returns at 01:15 with that done. You then spend another half an hour doing the paperwork you were supposed to do at 23:30.

You finally get to track level, walk the mile or so to the work site (damned tunnels) and inspect the first shaft. All OK apart from the keys snapped of in the access doors, but what the hell it’s only safety critical so can’t really matter. You move onto second shaft and discover you can’t do your work there. You’ve been double booked with another team who need the ventilation on, as such the shaft is off-limits and you can’t get access to it.

No access, no work so you abort the plan. You walk back to the station, get your excuse sheet signed (“We couldn’t do the work as someone else fucked up” signed by the person who fucked up) and go home about 04:00. Repeat at some point in the future when you return to (hopefully) do the second shaft.

So despite all the paperwork being done weeks earlier, despite endless checking, booking and sign offs the work didn’t get done and the final bill for the job will end up double the estimate at least, and that’s assuming the second attempt goes well. This is not a rare occurrence, double booking is pretty common (not to mention triple or more booking on occasion) and it’s not unusual to turn up on site and not even start work.

But as long as the public and the press don’t find out I can’t see much changing. Hell even if they do find out probably nothing will happen. I mean who’s going to risk reforming the system when they know any accident at all will be blamed on their changes? Now holding people to account is a good thing, but only after an investigation proves fault. However as we regularly see the press and ignorant politicians are impatient and can’t wait for the thorough investigation; they want a scapegoat and they will have one, facts be damned! Unsurprisingly this is not a conductive environment for reform of safety critical systems.

But if you expect that to change then I have a wonderful Kabul timeshare opportunity that you will be interested in.

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