back to article Docklands train runs off without operator

The Docklands Light Railway is designed to work without a driver, but it does have a "Passenger Service Agent" on board to operate the doors, check tickets, and sort out possible problems. The usual procedure is that after a dinging noise the agent closes the doors and the train pulls away. But on Tuesday, a train bound for …


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  1. Ferry Boat

    wrkactjob sbs(qbatch)

    Dry run for a non-suicide terrorist attack. Subverted PSA puts bag of bomb on train, presses button from outside. Train goes off with passengers, boom! PSA runs away. See, they even practised that last bit.

  2. Alastair Dodd

    They run fine without operators anyway

    Wasn't it the union that forced them to use the operator instead of sensible things like automatic barriers and the like? Tubes don't have anybody in the carriages and don't need em - Neither does the DLR so they could save money. Great system - hobbled by humans stupidly.

  3. tom

    Never needed them before...

    When i first got to london about 9 years ago most of the docklands trains had no 'service agents' aboard. Seemed like a step backwards when they suddenly started putting people back on them.

    Something to do with passengers being scared of them and of course with no-one checking tickets, no-one ever bought them.

  4. Hedley Phillips

    Quality idiot

    What on earth were they thinking?

    Unless the idea was to close the doors and then jump on before they closed. A game to while away the tedium of such a boring job?

    Stupid thing to do. Ok if you are on your own with a lift and no passengers but not with a train full of commuters/tourists. There are enough hold ups/strikes and problems with an extra idiot being involved.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    'Passenger Service Agent'

    That'd be what we called a 'guard' before the days of whalesong.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Of course they aren't really required at all, but the unions would go beserk, that's why the rest of the undergroudn still has drivers.

    >half a mile (...) about 10 minutes.

    3 miles per hour?

    They need to get them PSA's on the treadmill...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    This is the age (of the train)

    I am reminded of the old sci-fi short story where the astronaut has to activate the suspended animation capsules of his crewmates. He does so, and then gets inside his own. The door closes and locks, at which point he notices that the "sleep" button is on the outside of the capsule. And he has a 150-year journey ahead of him.Bum.

    Perhaps the DLR could put the button on the other side of the control booth from the door, so that no-one can reach it from the platform.

    I wonder if the driver was having a cigarette, or chatting on the mobile phone, and became distracted?

  8. Anonymous Coward

    PSA not required

    From memory, these trains don't need the 'PSA' to run but if there's a PSA around they tend to work the doors. Presumably they put the train in some kind of manual door mode when they're on board. That would explain why the train waited at the next stop.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Toronto Transit Commission

    Sounds like she probably got employee of the month in Toronto working for the TTC and used her new credentials to get a nice cushy job in Blighty !

  10. b shubin

    Job description 3.0 beta

    @ Mike Richards

    i'm pretty sure the joss-sticks brigade came up with "Customer Satisfaction Coordinator", "Quality Experience Provider", and/or similar, but the focus groups reacted with stunned silence, followed by gales of mirth, so they had to settle for Passenger Service Agent as more neutral and less absurd.

    "Conductor" (short, sweet, accurate) is so last-millenium, not to mention not-billable.

    @ Ferry Boat

    thanks for the flash of nostalgia, had an iSeries at my last gig, really miss the big beastie...

  11. Tim J

    @Tom Re: Never needed them before...

    The DLR has *always* run with PSAs (though they have previously been titled "train captains") - you obviously didn't always notice them.

    That is a *cast-iron guaranteed fact*.

  12. Anonymous Coward


    "I wonder if the driver was having a cigarette, or chatting on the mobile phone, and became distracted?"

    Perhaps you should actually read the bloody article before commenting on it then, since it seems you didn't even get as far as half-way through the first sentence before you decided to enlighten us all with the benefit of your ignorance...

  13. hokkyokusei

    Train Captains

    Isn't that what they used to call them?

  14. Jon Tocker

    JonB again

    ">half a mile (...) about 10 minutes.

    3 miles per hour?

    They need to get them PSA's on the treadmill..."

    Again we're on the same wavelength. Must be something to do with our names.

    I was wondering if the "PSA" was 19-stone, asthmatic and a smoker. The train doesn't happen to *climb* 200 metres between those 2 stations, does it?

    I can *walk* it in less time and not get out of breath (and I *am* asthmatic and a smoker...)

  15. Christian Moeller

    Wow... A computer with a human on board...

    ... is about as strange as me going on the danish (mini) Metro in Copenhagen every day. Seriously. Our Metro is a computer running a fully automatic fuzzy logic (ugly) mini-train every 2 minutes throughout the city.... Without any officials aboard.

  16. Mr Larrington


    "Passengers" is s-o-o-o-o-o last century. Surely the approved word is "customers"?

  17. stuart byrne


    if you have been to the 2 stations in question, there is no direct root between them. so 10 minutes is good going.

    it's also not the first time that this has happened.

  18. Natalie Gritpants

    @Stuart byrne

    No direct root between the stations! How does the train manage then? Does it take the bus?

  19. Kevin Gurney
    Paris Hilton

    How ?

    I always thought that the operator had to turn a manual key lock and press a button to open the doors and then reverse the procedure to close them otherwise the train wouldn't move ?

    Obviously not........

    Oh and was PH on board when this happened ?????

  20. Nik Cholerton

    Well, duh...

    The train uses the rail bridges, with the electric rails. Not PSA-compatible.

  21. Joseph Zygnerski

    Computerized trains

    We have them in the NYC subways (and have had for a few years), except people complained that they didn't like the idea of a computer driving their train.

    So they put the motormen back.

    Strange, because they never eliminated the conductor (yes, we just call them conductors...and passengers), so there was always a person on board.

  22. Andy Silver badge

    The DLR has NOT *always* run with PSAs

    Tim J, before train captains came on board to check tickets, they were manned exclusively by passengers. I don't recall exactly why staff were introduced, but I think it was more down to problems with the computer controllers than trade union agition.

    First time I ever took one, it left the platform, went about 100 metres, stopped, then reversed back to the station. It repeated that procedure a couple of times before the train captain intervened.

    Would you board an unpiloted one if you knew that *your* team had developed the software?


  23. stan marsh


    A PSA once also warned me not to get off at Shadwell late one night - was going to catch a bus from there onwards.

    On and off problems there with fighting kids, and that night was particularly bad apparently. Also good at helping tourists out.

  24. Tim J

    @Andy - The DLR has *ALWAYS* run with staff on board

    Sorry Andy, but the DLR has always run with a member of staff on board since services began in 1987 - and yes I travelled on the system that year. The on-board member of staff was originally titled a "Train Captain" and they are now called a "Passenger Service Agent".

    Please see this English Heritage Survey of London chapter on the Modern Docklands - or if you don't want to read it all just perform a text search for "train captain":

    If that ain't good enough have a gander at this article on the DLR ATO signalling system on the Railway Technical Web Pages:

    Lastly, a simpler short piece on TheTrams website about the DLR:

    The whole system had a very long period of teething problems such as the one you describe, which was unfortunately not uncommon back then.

    However I can give you a cast-iron assurance that each and every DLR train always does and always has carried a Train Captain/ PSA - apart from this instance (and perhaps a few other similar instances) when the train has let slip its leash and run off without the PSA.

    Please feel free to attempt to prove what you say - but you won't be able to, because it is erroneous. Sorry to be harsh, but that's how it is.

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