Incorrect use of alarms causes delays

Thursday 07th July 2022

Class 450 Train passing through Fleet station

  • The incorrect use of customer alarms resulted in over 30 hours of delays on SWR services in six months
  • There were 176 incidents of customers incorrectly using the alarms
  • In non-emergency situations, customers are urged to use alternative ways to seek assistance

The incorrect use of passenger communication alarms by customers on-board South Western Railway (SWR) services resulted in over 30 hours of delays between December 2021 and May 2022.

There were 176 incidents of customers incorrectly activating emergency alarms, causing 1,825 minutes of delays and nine service cancellations.

When an alarm is activated, the train guard must walk through the train to investigate the incident, with the train remaining at a standstill.

This not only causes delays to the train on which the activation takes place, but leads to trapped trains behind it, potentially leading to significant and unnecessary disruption to many.

The alarms should be reserved for emergencies, such as a fire on the train. The penalty for intentionally activating an alarm incorrectly is £1,000.

Incidents of incorrect usage of alarms over the period included:

  • A customer activating an alarm because they were feeling anxious, leading to a 5-minute delay
  • A customer activating an alarm because of forgotten luggage on a platform, leading to a 7-minute delay
  • A customer activating an alarm because they claimed they had dropped their phone out of a train window, leading to an 8-minute delay
  • A customer activating an alarm because they became concerned about an unattended bag, leading to a 17-minute delay

In non-emergency circumstances, customers are urged to use alternative ways to receive assistance. If you need help or assistance, please consider:

  • Speaking to the onboard guard or any member of staff
  • Alighting at the next station to seek assistance from staff or use the help point button
  • Contact the British Transport Police on 61016
  • Contact SWR on Twitter @SW_Help

Christian Neill, Customer Experience Director for South Western Railway, commented:

“Customer alarms should only be used in emergencies. Improper activations cause significant disruption to services, negatively impacting staff, and other customers.

“SWR has robust measures in place to support customers who are feeling unwell or to tackle disorder. Customers in need of assistance should speak to a member of staff or contact the British Transport Police by texting 61016.”