Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

But then....

First a bang, then a jolting and a loss of power as the train glided to a halt between stations. Silence, as we looked out to the golf course on one side and, on the other, a dull piece of heath-land with the wind shaking the trees and grasses, or went on reading, dozing or tapping away at something electronic.

Soon, the guard came through with a "Sorry, we'll let you know as soon as we know anything", which was all he could say, and came back to do so rather too often. Eventually, it became clear that what most of us had probably guessed was all too true: someone had managed to cross the trackside fencing and had been hit by the train.

Almost at once, an instant case study in human behaviour: two quiet and conventional ladies perking up to discuss the grisly implications with a certain shamefaced relish, the impatient chuntering that the police and emergency services weren't instantly on hand - and not from the red-faced man and his wife all done up for a black-tie do, ensconced in the residual first-class compartment, but from an apparently laid-back young man who was, shall we say, not exactly dressed for self-importance. And me? I had a book to finish reading.

Eventually, police and emergency service people appeared, walking along the track, and attending to whatever they had to do, and finally the train company's emergency team got on board. Quite apart from the initial tragedy, and whatever the effect it must have had on the driver, it appeared that the collision had damaged the train itself.

It was about two hours before all the necessary inspections and re-arrangements had been done, and the train was able to move us all to a station where we could join another to take us back to London. All in all, it was three hours later than expected that I got home.

But somebody didn't - and what's three hours against a life?

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