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Docklands train runs off without operator

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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 Bank pulled into West India Quay station. Passengers got on and off, the dinging noise sounded, the agent pushed the button to close the doors, and the train departed. The only hitch was the passenger agent hit the button while standing on the platform.

Which is where she stayed while the train continued on its journey.

An eyewitness told local blog Londonist what happened:

The Passenger Service Agent managed to make the astonishing mistake of telling the train to close the doors whilst she was standing on the station platform. The train duly obeyed, effectively shutting the Passenger Service Agent out of the carriage. It then proceeded to depart, driving itself to the next station (Westferry) and leaving the hapless Passenger Service Agent behind.

At Westferry station, the train waited patiently to be told that it could depart again. Unfortunately, unknown to the train's software, the Passenger Service Agent was now about half a mile away, and so currently unable to provide this information in a timely manner. And so the train waited. As did the passengers. For about 10 minutes.

Eventually, a slightly out-of-breath Passenger Service Agent arrived, having presumably just legged it from the previous station, and resumed control...

Serco Docklands, which runs the service, confirmed the facts of the story, but reassured passengers: "At no point was the safety of passengers compromised. The DLR Control Centre has the ability to take control of any train on the system during any point of its journey between stations. The Docklands Light Railway is an automated system. Passenger Service Agents are on board DLR trains to provide information, assistance, and to carry out revenue duties."

And, um, open and close the doors?

A Serco spokesman said it was the first time this had happened. Hats off to Londonist, which you can visit here. ®

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