A METRO driver from South Tyneside who was plagued by nightmares after being at the controls during a fatal rail accident is doubling up as a counsellor to help colleagues get their lives back on track.
Alan Hudson was off work for three months after his carriage hit someone who was on the tracks five years ago, and found it difficult to cope with the trauma until he opened up about his experiences with fellow workers.
Mr Hudson, 52,who has worked for Tyne and Wear Metro for 14 years, was spurred on to become a corporate counsellor for his colleagues at DB Regio, the firm which operates the system.
After the accident, DB Regio provided Mr Hudson with counselling, but he says the real support began when he returned to work three months later.
He said: “When I returned to work, I was really nervous. It was only during a conversation with another Metro driver who had experienced a similar incident that I began to open up. My colleague explained that my experience was a natural response to a traumatic event, as were the nightmares that plagued me.
“This gave me an idea that DB Regio could provide real benefits for staff through peer-to-peer counselling. For me, it was more comfortable talking to an experienced colleague rather than a psychologist.”
The train operator paid for him to attend a three-month intensive counselling course at Gateshead College.
He added: “I was a little intimidated because I had to stand up and explain why I was on the course. You could have heard a pin drop after I told the class what had happened. I found the course hard academically as I’d left school at 16 and this was the first time back in a classroom. Towards the end, however, I ended up helping students because of my life experience.”
Mr Hudson is now qualified as a corporate counsellor and provides a listening ear to any staff member who needs it.
He said: “DB has been very supportive in promoting the counselling service, distributing my number to all those who have experienced incidents.
“If someone is involved in an incident, they are given my number and often call me. I then arrange to see them in their home, a café, or even at my own house.
“The incident was five years ago now, but it never goes away, you just learn to live with it. People sometimes forget, it’s not just those who die who are the victims, it’s people like me, the ambulance people and police who turn up too.”
Despite the tragic nature of the incident, Alan has led three trauma courses for The Samaritans, advised Chiltern Railways on developing a similar counselling service for staff and he’s even received a regional award for going the extra mile to help his colleagues.
He said: “When I won the ‘Individual who makes a Difference’ category at the Equality North East awards, I was beaming, a little embarrassed, but secretly delighted. I didn’t think I’d ever win an award. You have to be in the right frame of mind to be a counsellor. The hardest part is finding the best person.
“When I retire I’d like to work for a homeless charity. My wife and I help Hospitality and Hope in South Shields by donating food and collecting for them, but I’d love to do more.”