Trespass is a significant network-wide problem, affecting many groups of people - the invader and their family, passengers, train crew, p-way staff, onlookers, Daily Mail readers and campaigners against flower trampling and ballast abuse. But the problem extends beyond human-kind. What about the willful disregard of lineside fences and associated signage by wildlife, livestock and Big Brother contestants?
Following appraisal by the RSPCA and a five-year feasibility trial on a virtual test track near Heckmondwike, Andrew Ripley, DBHS's Supreme Head of Incursion Reduction Techniques (Standard Gauge Division) has announced the roll-out of a new initiative known as DOG - Dispersal of Organic Gobblers - which will see the provision of a robotic Border Collie on all UK main line services.
The prototype robotic DOG.
The trespass problem is most engrained in the north where institutionally-conditioned Swalesdales consider the lineside to be an extension of their larder. They are persistently guilty of Rule Book non-compliances despite being given awareness presentations by Powerpoint and 'Track Off' badges. Several copies of Rule Book module G1 have been deliberately chewed at the corners.
Efforts to facilitate legitimate access for sheep and goats, to assist with vegetation clearance, failed due to problems with DEFRA's competence management regime.
Having been authorised to leave her position of safety, Meg goes in search of a safe cess.
On-track trials of DOG involved a six-year-old Border Collie called Meg, protected by a 38-page Rimini pack. She initially failed her PTS examination after incorrectly stating that Pee Wee was normally carried out against a milepost or the lookout's leg. However her safety critical communications skills were found to be well above the industry norm.
Deployment of the DOG involves a COSS, two lookouts, a handler, an operations manager, three animal welfare officers and a back-up cowboy who fulfils the 'belt and braces' requirement. Having wagged her tail and bitten through the COSS form to confirm that she has understood the briefing, a safe system of work is established involving the appointment of a donkey as site warden. This allows the DOG to perform its duties anywhere within the railway boundary but not within 30cm (1 foot) of any fence unless goggles, a hardhat and safety harness is worn.
Three goats retreat into a fenced green zone, allowing the 1417 to pass under caution.
22,000 robotic DOGs are being mass-produced at a factory in the Czech Republic and will be equipped to round-up cattle, sheep, goats, footballers and lost politicians.
With her trial period over, Meg continues to perform her duties on the Wensleydale Railway. Although not on the full-time payroll, her employment package includes several perks including the right to scrounge food from passengers and chase rabbits. She has though asked the RMT to investigate the rumoured pension rights of the station cat.
With many rural lines now recruiting staff into multi-skilled positions as a cost saving measure, Meg is undergoing training in Absolute Block signalling, having already been passed as competent in tamping, spot resleepering and customer services.
Meanwhile the Wensleydale has recruited Rosie the Springer Spaniel as head of its new Cordon Bleu catering division. Since 12th August a range of game dishes has been available to First Class passengers, freshly prepared from lineside rail-kill and served by Rosie who recently secured her Grade 16 waitressing qualification after a two-minute course at Burger King in Darlington. Asked how it went, she replied "rough".
Below she is seen being admonished by Meg - who acts as the railway's Senior Compliance Officer - after Rosie was caught chasing a pheasant within 4 feet of a running line without first determining its wing span and optimum basting time. Her IWA (Interim Waitressing Accolade) competence was suspended for two weeks.