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The Train – an unfolding drama starring Twitter @EmmaFirth @JamesFirth #swt and a cast of characters

Last night I was chatting to a friend on Twitter and suddenly found myself watching a real life drama unfold. Emma Firth 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.

This incident has today made major headlines on the BBC and I present for you below the action as it James Firthhappened on Twitter. Some of the tweets are absent but you can easily follow the story line.

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 lovely-@jamesfirth 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:

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: 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.


Trefor Davies

By Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of, writer, poet,

4 replies on “The Train – an unfolding drama starring Twitter @EmmaFirth @JamesFirth #swt and a cast of characters” Yup i was stuck on the train next door. Because of the other people on the train next door getting off we were delayed for another hour. Because of this long wait in this time a passenger went into hypoglycaemic shock and nearly died. SWT need to review their procedures. And only passengers with genuine reasons for getting off the train and walking down the tracks should be allowed to do so. The others that got off and walked are very selfish causing misery for a couple of thousand people stranded on the trains.

I totally sympathise. SWT really have to take the responsibility though for the total lack of communication and management of the situation.

I have my own train story fwiw, though nothing as dramatic or traumatic as this one. I was going North out of Kings Cross one hot Friday afternoon when we found there were big delays to all trains due to electric overhead lines being down at Grantham.

It wasn’t long before the station itself became dangerously crowded so they shipped us onto the trains to make some space. The upshot of course was that as we got near to Grantham they held us waiting on the train. We must have been there 2 – 3 hours.

Of course we all knew what he problem was – we weren’t being kept in the dark so we put up with it. I was sat in the buffet carriage and very quickly a long queue formed for the bar. Before we knew it a real party got going which was great. However the bar began to run out of stocks and it got to the point where all they had left was champagne which the punters, getting a bit desperate after a while, started to drink.

Once the supplies ran out that was it. The people who had been on the pop then began to flag – it was also hot which didn’t help. All this time I sat there nursing my bottle of mineral water (I was driving) knowing that it would all end in tears.

Eventually the train got going and it wasn’t long before I got off at Newark. I could imagine the drinkers being totally wiped out for the rest of the day though. Once you have started you have to keep going and on this occasion they couldn’t!

I’m the Emma that walked – and I’d just like to say three things. 1) power had already been off for 40 mins when I got out, because multiple passengers had already walked. 2) My husband was being told by SWT drivers there was a real danger of no more trains moving AT ALL that night. That surely was the fear that motivated all who walked 3) Unless you’ve been 8 months’ pregnant and had no food/water for hours, and have been given no clue as to when you might next get some, you can’t understand. If I’d had any assurance at any stage that we would get off the train at some point I would’ve stayed – but I didn’t, so felt I had no choice.

Emma – Power may have been turned off for 40 mins, but people like you who left trains without authorisation just extended the length of time the power stayed off as railway staff had to carry out a lengthy search for any people still on the tracks before they could turn the power on again. All of us left on the trains knew that we were having to wait another hour, after the signalling had been restored, because of your actions and others like you.

If you had a medical need, then you should have talked to the guard and if that didn’t work called 999. Someone would have escorted you, and more importantly would have known where you were, which would have prevented another search of the tracks.

If you were uncomfortable, guess what – so was everyone else – and I guarantee that some people were feeling worse than you.

SWT has apologised to passengers – perhaps you should too.

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