A Metro driver 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.
During his 14-year career with Tyne and Wear Metro, Alan Hudson has experienced a number of incidents but was always able to emotionally move on from them.
However, it was not until he was involved in a fatality on the line that his life changed.
While today Alan is stronger, more resilient and able to talk about his experience, he knows he would not be where he is now without the support of his colleagues at DB Regio Tyne and Wear, which operates trains on behalf of Nexus.
After the accident, DB Regio initially provided Alan with counselling, but the real support began when the 52-year-old 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.”
Alan says one of the things that affected him badly about the accident was the feeling of powerlessness being forced to watch a fate unfold that he could not change.
Alan talked to his bosses at DB Regio about the possibility of him taking a counselling course in order to assist other staff going through similar traumatic experiences.
The train operator paid for Alan to attend a three-month intensive counselling course at Gateshead College.
Alan completed his course work on rest days and DB Regio helped support him by changing his shifts when needed.
He then joined Newcastle City Centre chaplaincy and became the chaplain for Eldon Square for a year, he also visited The Cyrenians charity during this time.
Back at DB, Alan is now qualified as a ‘corporate counsellor’ and provides a listening ear to any staff member who needs it, any time of the day or night.
He said: “DB has been very supportive in promoting the counselling service, distributing my number to all those who have experienced incidents.
“When there’s a lot of men working together, you find there’s often a macho culture in which they will carry their burden without tears. Men will often bottle their feelings up. I always say that you are better off crying than holding it in.
“If someone is involved in an incident, they are given my number and often call me.
“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.”
The biggest reward for Alan, however, is seeing someone he’s helped back at work, smiling and laughing.