Connecting you to what's important

A tractor, a 55-year-old bus and a whole heap of grit; how Wales and Borders railway teams took on the Beast from the East

06 March 2018

A tractor, a 55-year-old bus and a whole heap of grit; how Wales and Borders railway teams took on the Beast from the East: SnowLisvaneThornhill

AS one of the worst snowfalls of recent memory turned Wales and the west of England white, rail teams have shared their stories.

When the snow is so high it reaches the top of your 4x4, you've probably got a good reason not to go to work. But not in the case of Valley lines train driver Jan Eldem. The driver, who lives in St Nicholas in the Vale of Glamorgan, trudged through the snow to a neighbouring farm where he borrowed a tractor to drive into Cardiff for his shift.

"I'd told the guys to only come in if they felt it was safe," said Arriva Trains Wales Driver Manager Philip Brown. 

"He sent me the text of his 4x4 buried in snow so I thought 'fair enough', but then he called me to say he'd borrowed a neighbour's tractor and was on his way. It was an incredible effort to keep our customers moving."

IMG 3371
IMG 3371

(The tractor Train Driver Jan Eldem used to get to work)

The Network Rail Machynlleth team worked tirelessly all day on Friday to remove wind blown trees on the Line at Llandre just north of Aberystwyth. Then on Saturday they were out again riding a route proving train and cleared 25 fallen trees on route on the Dyfi junction to Pwllheli line. The team also went the extra mile in ensuring access to Machynlleth station was clear and safe for passengers for when services resumed on Monday. The Hereford Signalling and Track team worked around the clock from Thursday morning clearing snow and repairing and protecting track and signalling equipment that was affected by the sub-zero temperatures. On Sunday it was all systems to go for the team to make sure all equipment was tested and ready to go ready for start of service on Monday. 

Machynlleth Team
Machynlleth Team

(A Network Rail engineer working on the line near Machynlleth)

Also on the Cambrian line, where rail services were severely reduced over Thursday and Friday, replacement buses were thin on the ground. 

But one bus that was dusted off and pressed into service was an old London Transport Routemaster owned by Christopher Boulter, a road transport coordinator for Arriva and a member of the passenger panel. 

"Some of the 'normal' vehicles apparently wouldn't start in the extreme cold but this young lady of a mere 55+ years old was used to get Arriva passengers home rather than leave them frozen!" said Christopher.

The bus was used to convey passengers from Shrewsbury on the Cambrian line route.

RMC1490 on emergency rail replacement at Newtown 27.2.18
RMC1490 on emergency rail replacement at Newtown 27.2.18

(The Routemaster bus in use on the Cambrian line route)

Across multiple stations, staff pitched in to shovel tons of snow from platforms and car parks. Many who couldn't reach their normal workplace put themselves forward to help. Countless bags of grit were poured onto public areas to keep slips and trips to a minimum. The gritting process will continue wherever possible where snow and ice poses a risk.

One Network Rail project manager drove signallers to the Wales Railway Operations Centre at 7am on Saturday so they could get to their shifts after spending hours helping get Nurses to the local hospital using a 4x4. This meant that not only was the local Hospital able to offer emergency services but it helped supplement the great work that the Mobile Operations Managers were doing in getting key staff to and from work to keep the main lines open.

The Arriva Trains Wales social media team dealt with more than 5,500 customer tweets between Thursday morning and Sunday evening, more than has ever been received before. Whilst sharing the latest public information on services, the team managed to reply in an average time of less than two minutes to customers.

By Monday morning all routes except for the Heart of Wales line and Blaenau Ffestiniog line had reopened.

Arriva Trains Wales Director Gareth Thomas said: "We know that the last couple of days have been really difficult for customers with the extreme weather causing severe service disruption and we thank customers for their patience.

"Despite the challenges, our colleagues at ATW and in Network Rail really have been going above and beyond to get to work, keep services running and to keep passengers safe. There are some fantastic examples here of how they've thought outside the box and come up with really creative ideas to do the best they can for our customers."



(Valleys Station Manager Richard Martin out gritting along the Treherbert line)

Contact information

James Nicholas

Communications Manager

Arriva Trains Wales