Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Sudden Railways

We live in unpredictable days.
Once upon a time, if the railway industry killed one of us, we got good information if not good service for a few days after.
In those days, the senior management of the companies were wetting their underwear thinking that they might be called upon to account for their failures and to take the same kind of responsibility as a motorist must take, say.
Well, lots of people have died and nothing has happened; and in the last few days it has been announced that the railway companies are to be allowed to charge an outrageously large fares increase.
It has finally penetrated the brains up the fat bottoms of railway executives that no one in authority cares that a woman and child died at Bestwood recently.
I do not say that anyone wanted them to be killed. It's just that no one cares.
At least, Sudden Railways does not seem to care.
It was business as usual yesterday.
That business operates a very simple model: we pay high fares and they treat us like dirt, threatening us via posters and announcements about the consequences of evading their cattle gates.
Last night, I tried to get home from inner London.
There were two southbound platforms open at the station but there was no indication of what if anything was arriving where. It was impossible, except for a well-trained athlete, to get to the platform when a train arrived.
In any case one would have to reach the front of the train to know where it was going.
You might expect that a good company would use its backup system and / or make verbal announcements. But this is not a good company. It is financially efficient company. That is, it doesn't waste resources on helping its customers. It doesn't have a back up system. OK? And they don't make verbal announcements except as threats or to confuse the issue. Making announcements would help the visually-impaired and Sudden Railways doesn't like to help the disabled.
I made a guess at the most likely platform. I intended, without hope, to ask the Help point. Another passenger got there first. I listened.
She asked when a train would be arriving, what platform it would arrive at and where it was going.
The operative said: he did not know.
Don't criticise him. This is the correct answer. He is doing his job. He is telling the truth. None of them know anything. What a ridiculous level of information you expect. You'll be asking to go to the station of your choice. Of course he could find out; but you didn't ask that, did you?
Remember the Sudden Railways motto: trains suddenly appear; trains suddenly disappear.
The passenger pressured him; and, resentfully, he looked something up.
He said: There is a train just outside the station.
She asked: Which platform?
He said he did not know.
She said that she only asked because she could not see any train anywhere.
He said: there is a train just outside the station.
She asked where it was going.
He said he did not know.
That was quite a lot of useless information; and she gave up and I didn't bother. The operative went back to studying the centrefold of the latest issue of Signalpersons' Spouses. Usually, you cannot even get useless information out of them. Their heads are lard; but it's ok because they have on the job training.
Their training may be summarised: you don't have to tell passengers anything and if they get angry then they are bad people.
Of course, there was no train; and the liar or perhaps fool who said there was will soon be promoted.
Eventually, after the only visual sign for half an hour being "Welcome" and no verbal announcement, a train arrived. No in-train announcement was made until the doors closed. I went where it was going though it was hardly nearer to where I wanted to be.
And so on...
It went on like that.
And this morning Sudden Railways exercised the discipline of the private sector and made no apology and maintained its policy of not even acknowledging that they were departing from the time table as usual.
Truly, they deserve their fare increase.

Sudden Railways
taking the piss at a profit for the foreseeable future