When we think of engineers it’s often the civil and structural types that come to mind. Last month, a lucky group of Women in Transport members had the opportunity to meet some of the hidden engineering heroes who help keep London moving on a visit to the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) at Acton.
The ERU supports the whole London Underground plus London Overground, Docklands Light Railway and London Tramlink networks. The team is London’s hidden emergency service, responding to critical incidents and emergencies 24/7, 365 days a year. The ERU also provides training for the London Fire Brigade and Ambulance services in dealing with rail emergencies.
Established in 1993, the team now comprises 135 staff spread across four operational offices in Acton, Battersea, Camden and Stratford to cover the whole of London. In 2012, the unit was granted blue light authority and has 14 dedicated police drivers who work in shifts.
The ERU deals with a wide range of issues from delivering urgent signalling equipment, fixing damaged track, repairing holes in wire fences to incidents, including derailments, passengers on the track and major disasters such as terrorist attacks.
The team is constantly training and have clearly developed a learning culture of continuous improvement. The importance of their engineering skills was evident at the Croydon tram derailment where they succeeded in righting the tram which had fallen on its side and putting it back on the track to be safely removed.
“We always work as a team, there’s no I in team” - Dennis Hindley, ERU
Our tour included the equipment stores and the emergency response vehicles equipped for a huge variety of incidents. We even had the opportunity to see some new kit being tested to lift a tube carriage and to take a turn at operating this ourselves.
The tour ended with an optional train crawl - which all 12 of our members did! The ERU team was hugely supportive and encouraging as we each crawled under the tube carriage. It was a challenge for everyone and gave us a glimpse into the physicality of the job. In a real scenario, the team would be under a train in very hot, dark conditions with equipment to carry as well as several carriages to navigate.
The feedback from our members showed a morning well spent by everyone:
“What a fun morning! Thank you”
“Thank you to @transportwm for the 10/10 experience #WomeninTransport @TfL”
“One of the most enjoyable site visits I have attended. I loved seeing behind the scenes and meeting the team. They were so friendly, welcoming and supportive. “
“The Team were so welcoming and happy to answer all of our questions so a big thank you to them all! The train crawl was also epic, I wish I could do it all again.”
“This event was amazing! A huge insight into what the ERU does on a daily basis and how they get services back up and running smoothly.”
“The ERU team were absolutely brilliant! Really knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their job, which is a tough one, they are definitely unsung heroes.”
And clearly the ERU enjoyed the company of our Women in Transport members:
“Thank you all for attending we really appreciate your comments. It’s also a great opportunity for us to create contacts around the transport industry and pick up useful insights on how we keep improving what we do.” Gary Burnham, ERU
Our thanks to the ERU team for their warm welcome and hospitality for our second visit. We’ll be back!
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