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Trains delayed by wrong kind of sunlight

Technically Incorrect: In Britain, there have been examples of tree leaves stopping trains. Now, however, it's malevolent rays.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Can't take the sunshine?

Southeastern Train Fan/YouTube; screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Despite their often languid demeanor, Brits can be sensitive.

It's not just the people, though. It's the machines too, especially the trains.

Sometimes, trains are delayed because of tree leaves on the line. These, authorities say, create a slippery layer that is dangerous when it covers the rails.

I've never, though, heard of trains being delayed because of the wrong sort of sunlight.

Yet the Guardian reports that this was the very reason given for a disruption in services Monday in Lewisham, south London.

Train operator Southeastern Rail took to Twitter to bemoan. "Apologies," it said, "we are having issues dispatching trains due to the strong sunshine this morning."

Not everyone associates the UK with strong sunshine, especially in the winter. Southeastern, though, explained on Twitter that "the low winter sun has been hitting the dispatch monitor, which prevents the driver from being able to see."

Was it impossible, however, for the drivers to shield their eyes in some way, or for the monitor to be shielded? Isn't there some kind of simple technology that could prevent such sunny frustration? Southeastern didn't respond to a request for comment.

However, a spokesman told the Guardian: "Actually, glare this morning made it impossible for some drivers to see the full length of their train in their mirrors before leaving stations. When this happens they have to get out and check to ensure everybody has got on or off the train safely before they can move. This can take a little more time, but thankfully for all it doesn't happen very often."

Passengers, though, many of who suffer through all sorts of delays -- in the summer as well as the winter -- weren't too thankful for this ray-of-sunshine angle.

Twitterer Sean B offered: "Waiting for #southeastern to start blaming 'the moonlight, the good times and the boogie' next." (Should you have been born in the last few weeks, this was a humorous reference to the Jacksons' classic "Blame It on the Boogie.")

Another frustrated Londoner, Carol Murphy, mused: "No driver. Wrong kind of sun. Slippery tracks. Landslips. Air wafting about. Anything really. #southeastern excuses bore me."

Southeastern doesn't have the reputation of being the finest of the British railway operators. Indeed, it has been voted by passengers as the worst.

One can imagine then that as winter continues to do its worst, passengers are braced for train delays due to the wrong kind of dust on the rails, the wrong kind of odor in the toilets or the wrong kind of joke told by a passenger.