After somebody dies on the railway network, there are two competing priorities: treating the deceased in a dignified manner, and getting the train service back on track. A few weeks ago the London Underground received some unwanted attention when it was revealed that they store bodies in storage rooms within the station until they can be taken away by an undertaker.
As a comparison, my trip to Williamstown yesterday shows that Metro Trains Melbourne take an even less respectful approach when dealing with fatalities on their network. The first outward sign of something being wrong was an innocuous disruption message posted to the official Metro twitter account at 4:05 PM:
Meanwhile on my train headed for Williamstown, the train driver made a similar announcement over the PA system, along the lines of:
due to a sick passenger at Williamstown Beach station, this train will be running express from here to Williamstown station. You can either leave the train at North Williamstown, or stay on the train to the end of the line, then come back.
By the time we passed through Williamstown Beach station it was easy to see what the actual issue was: a white Ambulance Victoria blanket was on the platform with someone beneath it, a pair of Victoria Police officers in their fluoro yellow vests were standing next to it, and a few more Metro staff in their fluoro orange vests were taking notes.
I didn’t pass through Williamstown Beach station again until 30 minutes after: due to signalling faults at Williamstown station 20 minutes of that was spent on a train that wasn’t moving. On my return our train did stop to pick up passengers, who had been waiting on the platform with two Metro staff.
Despite this, the passing of time had not changed the scene on platform 2: the police were still standing guard, the white blanket was still on the asphalt, and the 30 degree sun was still beating down on the deceased.
On the opposite platform passengers had been there waiting since the last citybound train had passed through 20 minutes earlier – only two tracks separating the living and the dead.
The above photo is from a different day.
So what is a transport operator to do with the body of a deceased person on their premises? I don’t have an answer, but leaving them on the platform for 30 minutes with just a white blanket over the top probably isn’t it – especially when you have a dozen passengers waiting for a train just a few metres away.