A London Underground train driver has lost his appeal for unfair dismissal at an Industrial Tribunal yesterday after ‘being afraid of the dark’ was ruled as inadequate grounds for taking time off work.
The court heard that although 34 year old Carl Jackson had learned to drive on a simulator, he claimed it did not accurately depict the darkness of the Northern Line in between the stations. Representatives for Mr Jackson argued that his employers, Transport for London, had failed to light the tunnels sufficiently and were therefore discriminating against drivers who suffer from nyctophobia.
Giving evidence, Mr. Jackson said that he had previously visited many underground stations and had found them to be very brightly lit, so when the his train first went into a darkened tunnel he was genuinely shocked. He said that until that moment he had no idea that he was afraid of the dark, although he admitted under cross examination that he always kept his bedroom light on at night and never went out in the evenings without high powered torches.
TFL said that they had done everything possible to help Mr Jackson but ultimately they could no longer afford to pay another driver to literally hold his hand during journeys. ‘When he was in the driver’s cab, his high pitched screaming could be heard by passengers over the intercom. It was very disturbing. At one point he claimed to have had a near death experience. He said he remembered travelling down a long dark tunnel towards a bright light. We explained to him that it wasn’t heaven, it was Elephant and Castle.’
Passengers on the Northern Line were apparently unsympathetic to the regular delays caused by Mr Jackson’s phobia, and could often be heard to groan or laugh derisively when they heard the announcement; ‘We would like to apologise for delays on the Northern Line this morning. This is due to a driver afraid of the dark.’
Mr. Jackson declared that he has now put the case behind him and has applied for a new job in the United States as a peanut farmer. ‘My doctor has warned me that I would suffer an anaphylactic shock if I so much as came into contact with a trace of a nut or any of its by-products, so as long as my new employers understand that I should be fine. I’m really looking forward to this new chapter in my life. Although I can’t fly or go on a boat, so I’m hoping they’ll pick me up in a car…’
Stan Laurel (one line py5ir5)
20th October 2008