Last night I was chatting to a friend on Twitter and suddenly found myself watching a real life drama unfold. The leadinglady was EmmaFirth, journalist with the Daily Telegraph and also heavily pregnant. Her husband JamesFirth played the part of the 7th Cavalry and the cast of characters included #swt (South West Trains) and other Twitter users too many to mention.
The tweets below represent an abbreviated history of the story in which dozens of commuter trains were stranded for hours with no apparent plan to rescue them. In the end some of them, including our pregnant heroine, broke out of their carriage and made a daring and adventurous dash down the railway line to safety in the arms of her man.
The curtains open and we find EmmaFirth in a crowded railway carriage somewhere outside Woking:
EmmaFirth Bloody stupid trains. Been stuck outside woking for 40 mins on second delay of evening. Grr
tref @EmmaFirth oh dear. You need to relax – try some breathing exercises etc.
EmmaFirth Now 50 mins not moving. At least cavalry of @jamesfirth charging to woking on his ford focus on off chance i ever get to station!
tref @EmmaFirth @jamesfirth If I strain my ears I can hear the bugle sound the cavalry charge
EmmaFirth @tref sods law says his charger breaks down. I’m so going for pizza if that happens!
JamesFirth South West Trains you’ve just ruined our tea! Shambles of a service this week…
EmmaFirth So we’re on the worst line. Grr swt-just get me to my tea before i get grumpy! #feedthepregnantone
EmmaFirth Brilliant. The guard is trying to ring swt but all lines engaged. Can’t think why.
EmmaFirth @ablufia true, true-although right now i’d take my chances!
EmmaFirth A man in my carriage has just woken up and is devastated we haven’t moved at all. This is quite amusing.
EmmaFirth Now apparently a fire has broken out at farnborough sub station. Will we ever get home?
EmmaFirth @NightPicEditor thanks-same network i think. Thank god for twitter-is keeping me just about sane!
EmmaFirth i’d happily force the doors and walk down the track. He’s parked outside a pizza place as well-smell could guide me in!
EmmaFirth You’ve got to laugh. The cavalry has arrived at woking, but i’m still not there, no eta. And he’s left the oven on! Oops
JamesFirth Pregnant wife stuck for 90 min outside Woking (2.5hr since CJ) on #swt whilst other trains pass towarks WOK. Do you have a plan #swt ?
EmmaFirth Latest update-sorry for delay but no more info. So they’ve turned the aircon up. Seriously, wtf?!
EmmaFirth @PatJHennessy they don’t seem to have any plan. I’ve been outside woking for 90 mins not moving.
EmmaFirth thanks [email protected] at woking but stil stuck outside, grr!
EmmaFirth @k4thybrown we may well be but whole network around woking deeply, deeply buggered.
JamesFirth Been told #swt staff been unable to contact station mgr at Woking – AWOL? – lied to by other staff saying all trains left CJ arrived at WOK
EmmaFirth Ohh station staff at woking, i wouldn’t lie to @jamesfirth he know when my train left clapham, so not all trains that left b4 7 are in. #swt
JamesFirth @emmabandey SWT staff at WOK refuse to believe train is still stuck. They told me where the failure is but refuse to believe her train stuck
EmmaFirth @NRE_SWT i’m 8 months pregnant, been stuck on train for 2 hours, no info-do you have any kind of plan?
EmmaFirth Guard has just apologised for lack of refreshments-says has sandwich and bottle of water but that’s it! Ha!
EmmaFirth @AbigailH good call! I’m sure we’re not far outside station, so maybe they’ll walk us off before morning!
EmmaFirth @hubmum @k4thybrown luckily had mars bar at clapham so situation could be worse!
EmmaFirth Bugger-phone dying and power monkey charge all gone-bye twitter..
EmmaFirth @GeorgeLMoore or just charge it again! Luckily man next to me has old school phone charger!
JamesFirth *Breaking* passengers on a stranded train coming into WOK have used emergency exit and are walkin down track. Verified by #swtstaff at WOK
JamesFirth Passengers been stopped for 2 hrs in 1 place, total journey time 3 hours+, taking matters into own hand after apalling incident mgt frm #swt
JamesFirth #swt staff told me “it is physically possible to move the stuck trains, but without a ‘SOP’ they can’t act to release stranded passengers”
JamesFirth #swt excuse of power and signal failure does NOT account for failure to release stranded passengers, that’s a secondary procedural prob
JamesFirth #swt should call a major incident. 22 trains stuck in a logjam. More passengers about to mutiny and walk, BTP are heading out to prevent
JamesFirth #swt source tells me very bad planning meant more trains joined jam and now no drivers to shunt trains out of WOK back east to free up space
JamesFirth #swt now there are passengers walking taking matters into their own hands power had to be cut making bad situation worse.
JamesFirth @GabrielleNYC I’m on platform waiting for heavily pregnant @emmafirth
JamesFirth Passengers still stranded outside woking on #swt no sign of movement. No psgr arrived in WOK in over an hr. Up to 22 trains involved #swtjam
JamesFirth Have spoken to 2 drivers & 2 guards who confirm #swtjam is catalogue of missed op to resolve earlier to avoid stranding. Scenario planning??
JamesFirth Unconfirmed. Police holding all passengers who left #swtjam at Woking. Possibly @emmafirth arrested?
EmmaFirth @JHHYPNOTHERAPY @JamesFirth Is ok – not arrested. Police tried to take details, I played both my pregnancy and Daily Tel journo card, 1-0
JamesFirth Okay we just got home – @EmmaFirth being 8 months pregnant was helped out and walked to Woking. Willblog this now #swtjam a DISGRACE
JamesFirth AFAIK passengers still trapped on trains outside woking #swtjam
JamesFirth Major questions over incident management as passengers stranded on South West Trains suburban commuter services: http://ejf.me/e8#swtjam
EmmaFirth @ablufia Hello – just home, after breaking out of train and walking down tracks to Woking. Look forward to seeing you at BM wedding!
EmmaFirth @k4thybrown @hubmum Choc is a boy?! Well, whatever it is, this be one big story to tell. Feel like a naughty child but am home – yeah!
EmmaFirth @knockbuckle Just ok – broke out of train and walked to Woking. Challenged police, feeling invincible!
The next morning
EmmaFirth Have just been on BBC Radio 5 live talking about the #swt fail #swtjam. Seems being really pregnant and jumping out of a train is unusual 😉
JamesFirth WTF delays of up to 2 hours: http://ejf.me/e9 ORLY, #swt? Multiple reports Clapham Jtn to Woking – normally 25 mins -> 5 hrs 25 mins #swtjam
tref @EmmaFirth this could be your first book/screenplay! 🙂
EmmaFirth @tref Mmmm – I feel it’s a little short and sweet to be memorable, but will bear in mind!
tref @EmmaFirth the story could obviously be embellished with side plots & you would have to become an American 🙂
EmmaFirth @tref Like your thinking! I’m thinking Julia Roberts to play me, Clooney for James – obv I’ve have to meet them and talk it through!
tref @EmmaFirth in the movie you would have the baby in the waiting room at Woking.unfortunately the kid would, in later years go off the rails
EmmaFirth @tref Boom! oh well, that may well happen anyway so I’m cool with that being in the film!
SallyNancarrow @EmmaFirth @tref Hi Emma, Do you have any pictures from last night or may I use a headshot of you?
Note Sally is a BBC journalist
EmmaFirth @SallyNancarrow @tref Sorry, no pictures – phone was dying and my carriage didn’t look v dramatic, but feel free to use headshot
tref @EmmaFirth @sallynancarrow you can always Photoshop it-worried look, beads of perspiration etc
The story has been continued on Twitter and other media. I leave you to your searches.