The railway is often on the receiving end of unwarranted bad press. You'd think that commuters would be happy to have a few extra days holiday at Christmas courtesy of our over-running engineering works, wouldn't you?
At Death by Health and Safety, we're keen to redress the balance by celebrating some unsung examples of astonishing enterprise, delivered almost on time and only slightly over budget.
If you know of others which deserve our recognition, please get in touch.
All the winners receive one of DBHS's Golden TCODs, an 'access all areas' pass to RSSB's forthcoming Pigeon English Masterclass and a Network Rail permit authorising the holder to think outside the box for up to three minutes.
Winner: Shower facility, Haltwhistle Station
A recent RSSB research project discovered that users of the Carlisle-Newcastle service have the most pungent aroma of any passengers on the UK main line network. This hygiene problem has been proven to attract vast numbers of flies towards passing trains with the potential of causing a derailment if a swarm of them hit the unit's windscreen simultaneously.
To address this serious safety issue, compulsory passenger showering has been introduced at stations along the route. At Haltwhistle, this initiative has resulted in the £4.3 million restoration of the old water tank - a relic of the steam age. This harvests rainwater as well as recycling liquid waste from the town's sewer.
When people arrive for their train, they are required to stand naked beneath the tank's discharge outlet for two minutes whilst they are dowsed with a detergent solution. Compliance is monitored at the local operations control centre via a network of webcams. Up to six people can be accommodated at any one time. Mixed showering is proving to be very popular particularly amongst members of the local dogging community.
In their citation, the judges commended the sustainable timber plug.
This award is sponsored by Pete Doherty
The Les Battersby Award for
Combatting Anti-Social Behaviour
Winner: Perching blade, Dinsdale Station
Anti-social behaviour is endemic in 21st century Britain and is particularly acute in Dinsdale on the Darlington-Saltburn line. At the local station, groups of youths used to congregate on the platforms to carry out despicable acts such as fingering, taxidermy and amateur dramatics. This was extremely intimidating for legitimate railway users.
To deter gangs from gathering, the award-winning shelters have been reduced in size to cover just 0.03% of the overall platform area. Also, the seating beneath them has been replaced with a two-inch wide 'perching blade'. Despite its design providing a theoretical capacity of five buttocks (or one-and-a-half John Prescotts), the installation has a safe working load of just 30lbs (13.6kg) which means that only Kylie Minogue is able to safely sit on it. A second blade, with some additional reinforcement, has been installed on the Down platform for Dannii.
'No smoking' signs have been added to each of the shelter's floating roof supports to mitigate the risks from fire eaters performing in such a confined space.
In their citation, the judges commended the undulating platform surface.
Winner: Ticket office, Darlington Station
Research by The Puddleduck Institute suggests that abusive or violent behaviour on trains is generally carried out by celebrities or drunkards with an IQ in single figures. Darlington is home to significant numbers of such people, most of whom work for the local council.
In an effort to prevent potential trouble causers from boarding trains, the team responsible for ITV's 'The Krypton Factor' has been commissioned to develop a series of aptitude tests which have to be completed in order to gain access to the ticket office. These include negotiating the underpass unaided, consuming a Costa Coffee without sustaining second degree burns and interpreting hieroglyphics displayed on the information boards.
The final physical challenge requires the hopeful traveller to analyse a rapid series of contradictory statements, determining the most appropriate course of action. If successful, access to the ticket office is then facilitated. If not, the rejected individual will be deemed intellectually unsuitable for rail travel and added to a list of prospective parliamentary candidates.
In their citation, the judges commended the transparency of the doors.
This award is sponsored by Gordon Burns
Winner: Up cess, East Coast Main Line, Wakefield
Passengers on the East Coast Main Line can now enjoy a new trackside art installation as they travel through West Yorkshire. The linear sculpture incorporates 246,000 randomly-positioned plastic panels - three of which interlock - containing an assortment of debris such as animal carcasses, fast-food cartons and drug-taking paraphernalia.
It's the brainchild of Eugenie Dumplings - formerly an east-end rag and bone woman - who describes it as "an attempt at high-velocity social intercourse with garbage-based foundations". Her last transport-related work involved the dumping of 2.8 million six-inch nails on the elevated section of the M6 through Birmingham.
Eighteen miles of cess was carefully excavated to accommodate the installation - this is now on display in the Forgotten Artifacts section at the National Railway Museum. Trackside staff have been supplied with aerial ropeslides to reach their sites of work. These can be attached to the overhead line equipment from 14 strategically-selected overbridges.
In their citation, the judges commended the number of jaunty angles.
This award is sponsored by Burger King
The Paris Hilton Award
for Climatic Control
Winner: Northern Rail
Today's passengers have high expectations when it comes to train services and are no longer prepared to tolerate inferior design and poor ride quality.
To ensure that its older, less desirable units do not accidently propagate when coupled as part of a six-car set, Northern Rail has now fitted all Class 144 units with a rubber-based climatic control system. This filters any uncontrolled discharges from the CET tanks. The company will soon offer the same service to politicians and bankers by establishing a walk-in clinic at Neville Hill depot.
In their citation, the judges commended the level of social responsibility.
Winner: Authorised Access Point, Horbury Junction
The installation of palisade fences along the railway boundary can have an oppressive impact on members of the local community, reminding them of time spent at Her Majesty's pleasure and restricting opportunities to moon at trains or procure copper cable. This is contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.
At Horbury Junction, a new track access system is being trialled which relies on the power of suggestion. A luminescent gate and two timber fence panels have been installed together with new steps to the top of an embankment. These elements have hypnotic qualities and immediately attract the attention of any approaching miscreant, resulting in them failing to notice the absence of an adjoining barrier for a distance of 370 yards.
The technique is known as Spent Budget and will be widely adopted by the next government, creating the illusion of major investment from projects funded by children's stolen pocket money.
This award is sponsored by Paul Daniels
Winner: Waiting shelter, Littleborough Station
High in the exposed Pennine hills, both the Up and Down platforms at Littleborough Station boast new waiting shelters. Designed by Douglas Futtock - inventor of the HSE's range of cottonwool cutlery - their half-acre footprint provides seating for no fewer than five people. At least 3 square inches of floor space are guaranteed to remain dry during spells of light drizzle (provided the wind does not exceed Gale Force 2).
The shelters include six cylindrical 'wind deflectors' (demonstrated in the picture above) and fully-transparent walls, built using the latest vandal-resistant material. To comply with diversity regulations, the headroom was calculated to ensure that Jeremy Clarkson's ego could be accommodated beneath the roof.
In their citation, the judges commended the shelter's safe distance from the platform edge.
This award is sponsored by Damart Thermal Underwear
Winner: Snack dispensing machine, Bingley Station
Obesity is becoming a major problem in Britain today, not least for the railway. According to research, the average passenger's circumference has increased by 18% since 2002, when benchmarked against Anne Widdicombe. This has an impact on the number of people who can be carried on a train.
To address this problem, the station operator at Bingley has introduced a range of no-fat confectionary, dispensed from a machine on Platform 1. These products use less packaging than comparable snacks which has the added benefit of reducing litter levels at the station. Four cleaners have been made redundant.
For those suffering from hunger pangs, leaflets featuring pictures of chicken nuggets, pork pies and chips can be purchased at the booking office for £18.95.
In their citation, the judges commended the vibrant colour of the vending machine.
This award is sponsored by Britton's Gastric Bands
The Alastair Campbell Award for
Winner: 'On Time'
Passengers are simple creatures, easily upset and confused. Researchers have found that arrival and departure notices displaying delays of just a minute or two tend to cause panic attacks, nausea and mass hysteria. This can have safety and performance implications.
Following an approach by the AMPS (Analysis and Manipulation of Performance Statistics)
Steering Group, the Oxford English Directory has agreed to change the definition of 'on time' to include any train running up to three minutes late. This could be increased to 30 minutes if an ATOC proposal is accepted.
This latest development follows last year's revision to the term 'on budget' which now encompasses any project exceeding its original funding level by 25% or less. However the term 'value for money' continues to exclude all of RSSB's activities.
In their citation, the judges commended the amount of paper used.
Between Running Rails
Winner: Weaste Branch, Eccles
The extraction of ballast from quarries in the Peak District has a significant environmental impact, one which is industry is determined to reduce.
In Greater Manchester, the Weaste branch - used daily by freight trains - has been relayed using corrugated cardboard rails on an organic mulch base. Over the spring and summer, plant growth was encouraged by means of a multi-purpose compost and Goulding Sulphate of Potash.
The section of line between the burnt out Astra (1m 2ch) and the collection of used syringes (1m 33ch) has now been designated a Site of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Three species of newt and an edible dormouse are known to visit the area. The project is slowly being rolled-out onto the adjacent Chat Moss lines.
Freight services on the branch have been re-routed via Clitheroe.
In their citation, the judges commended the adoption of bamboo pandrols.
This award is sponsored by The Forestry Commission
Winner: Lookout Operated Warning Systems
Health and safety law requires only that employers take action which is reasonably practical and not disproportionately expensive.
To demonstrate the railway's commitment to on-track safety, a massive investment has been made in Lookout Operated Warning Systems (LOWS). However, to prevent excessive wear and tear, a Deployment Evaluation Benefit Tool (DEBT) has been developed by our Safety & Health Improvement Taskforce (S&HIT). Holders of an Applied Physics degree can complete this in three weeks.
The process has delivered remarkable results. Since 2004, the industry's 25 LOWS kits have been used twice. On neither occasion were they scratched. This usage level has been enhanced recently by an HMRI Prohibition Notice, banning any further deployment.
Anyone wishing to inspect the LOWS equipment can do so - around the clock, 365 days a year - at most Network Rail depots where it is stored in a skip.
In their citation, the judges commended the absence of noise pollution.
This award is sponsored by the Sinclair C5
The Tracey Emin Award for
Winner: Rail-over-river bridge, Horbury Junction
Our industry is keen to provide a pleasant, welcoming and secure environment for all users of the railway, whether passengers on trains, enthusiasts on station platforms or pedestrians using 'shared' infrastructure.
At Horbury Junction, the Wakefield-Barnsley line crosses the River Calder on a bridge which also accommodates a footpath. It has recently been treated to a makeover by Crigglestone's 'Bastard Crew', a gang of eight knife-wielding delinquents whose activities are funded by the Department for Work and Pensions.
In their citation, the judges commended the use of fire-retardent paint.