‘Hero’ train driver nominated for Employee of Year award

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

A ‘hero’ train driver who put the safety of his passengers above his own when the train he was driving collided with a tractor at a level crossing, has been nominated as ‘Employee of the Year’ by Abellio Group Plc.

Stuart Connell was driving the Greater Anglia service from Cambridge to Norwich that collided with a tractor at Hockham Road level crossing on Sunday 10 April 2016.

Travelling at 87mph, Stuart saw a tractor pull out on a level crossing ahead of him and had seconds to act. Despite being in imminent danger himself, Stuart put the safety of his passengers and the tractor driver above his own, ducked down and pulled the emergency brake, before warning passengers. Stuart and then kept his hand firmly down on the warning horn up to and including the point of impact, which resulted in him sustaining a nasty injury to his hand.

The trailer separated from the tractor and struck the side of the train several times. Stuart’s quick thinking, speedy reactions and unselfish actions prevented a derailment and undoubtedly reduced the number of injuries sustained by all on board the train and the tractor.

Although he was badly injured in the collision and in shock, having avoided a derailment Stuart continued his duties, walking the train to reassure and look after the 135 passengers, who later called him a 'hero'.

His actions that day have led to his nomination as ‘Employee of the Year’ at the Abellio Achievement Awards which highlight the individuals and teams from across Abellio’s operating companies, comprising almost 13,000 employees, who deserve special recognition from the parent company.

Greater Anglia’s Managing Director, Jamie Burles, said of Stuart’s nomination: “Stuart demonstrated a unique ability to put others’ safety before his own. He is a professional through and through and understands his responsibility as a driver is to ensure the safety of his passengers. His dedication to his role really shone through and he prides himself on doing his job to the best of his ability.

“His professionalism and dedication to the role was further demonstrated when he returned to work at the earliest opportunity, despite his injuries preventing him from driving.”

Passenger, Mr Last, described Stuart as "an absolute hero... going up and down the train making sure people were OK".

Alex Youngs said: "The driver, conductor and a Network Rail guy who happened to be on board were going through the carriages and making sure everyone was ok. The driver and conductor were the heroes.”

Tom Smith wrote on Twitter: “He [Stuart] did an excellent job to keep everyone safe.”

The winners will be announced at an Awards ceremony on 23rd March.