at the AVR

On Thursday August 26th at 7.02pm emergency services received a 999  call which was to test their skills to the limit:-

"Hello, this is the Avon Valley Railway at Bitton Station, midway between Bristol and Bath on the A431. There has been a train derailment just north of Bitton station involving a locomotive and five carriages. A number of carriages are on fire. I can see dozens of casualties, both inside and outside the train. Please help"

Although it was, in fact, a well-planned training exercise involving a number of emergency organisations, everyone involved treated this as if it were the real thing. Within minutes the first two fire appliances arrived and the officer in charge began to assess the scene. Because permission could not, initially, be given to allow the emergency services onto the tracks as trains may still be running, an equipment store was established at the end of the platform and additional resources summoned.

By the time permission was given, over fifty personnel were ready to extinguish the fire (actually it was a smoke generator) and begin a detailed search of the train and the surrounding area for casualties.

As the number of injured grew (played by volunteer members of 'Casualty Union'), yet more help was required.  Members of the ambulance service worked with the fire fighters to bring out casualties found inside and under the train, two search and rescue dogs checked the undergrowth - whilst the police helicopter hovered overhead using their thermal imaging camera to check for wayward passengers.

By the end of the 'shout' around one hundred personnel had been involved in the training exercise. The training officers, who spent the evening filming the exercise, were very pleased with the results and thanked the AVR for providing such a real-life scenario.

The Railway, of course, has to treat safety issues as seriously as any main line operator.  Consequently, we are delighted to be able to help the emergency services in this way, though we hope that they'll never have to put what they learnt into operation.

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This page last updated by Tony Wray on 29/10/2004.