Tuesday, July 03, 2007

We are human beings, honestly we are

Ah, July. The seemingly endless sunny days, the birds singing, the children playing in the park ... half of the country under water and rail signals being hit by lightning. What in the name of all that is normal is going on with the weather at the moment?
I arrived at Paddington last night to see the commuter's worst nightmare: a departures board with the word "cancelled" on every line, and thousands of tetchy suit-wearers milling around impatiently.
The reason, it seems, was a lightning strike at a signal at Southall. Now, I of all people realise that we can't blame FGW for the weather. But what annoys me is the way we're treated when things like this happen.
Rather than give out the latest information as quickly as they get it, we are herded behind closed gates and forced to guess which will be the next train to leave.
I wonder, does the crowd really become uncontrollable if you tell them that the train that's just arrived at platform four will be the Penzance service, calling at Slough and Reading, but please could you wait for it to be cleaned before we let you on it? Surely we're not such animals that we would charge through the barriers willy-nilly, barging the poor cleaning people out of the way as we set our sights on the prize - the empty seat? Would we?
I do wonder sometimes, when I see the way people behave during rush hour. But I like to think that we're civilised enough to be given all the information and still behave ourselves. And, actually, when it is something like a lightning strike, we don't mind so much, because we realise that's not the company's fault.
Though the trains were absolutely packed last night, people were fairly cheerful. It would have been different if trains had been cancelled because there was no driver available, or not enough carriages. So, please, try to treat us like human beings and let us prove that we are capable of behaving like them.


Anonymous said...

I got to Maidenhead station at 5.30 last night and couldn't get a London-bound train until about 5 to 7. They didn't tell us why the trains were delayed, people were getting fed up and trying to catch taxis instead, and the poor guy who runs the coffee stand got punched in the face by a disgruntled passenger...

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but at MML, we basically keep it a secret from you as to which platforms the trains are on... it's simply because you would get those few, even just 3 people, who go and get on the train, and we really don't need it. However, stand at St Pancras during the rush hour and you will see the "regulars" lining up at the gate, as they know what platform it'll be on, because they're there every day - and we dont move them. Sometimes if theres someone who we know is friendly, always has his/her ticket etc, we'll let him/her through - pretend to know him/her and take them up and make sure they get a nice seat.

We're not all bad, but, remember, your not all good!

Anonymous said...

Last night they were not boarding trains, till it was confirmed by Swindon that a crew was ready to take it out, and it was definately going to a certain place.

Lots of set swaps took place.

Anonymous said...

Last night at around 11, someone in Eailing decided to jump in front of a train. I was coming back from Wimbledon and asked the nice FGW man when he thought the trains would be moving again and I got the answer "1, 2, 3, maybe 4 hours" "Can you be more specific?" "NO". So I headed for the Hilton (comfy seats, expensive drinks) to relax for an hour.
Went back to the hall after 45mins to discover that trains were running and had been for 20mins, so much for 4 hours.

whistleblower said...

When people jump in front of trains (an increasingly frequent occurrence) the Police take control and declare it a crime scene. The senior police officer alone will decide when the train can be moved and the track re-opened. So '1,2,3 maybe 4 hours' is as specific as a railway employee can get unless he is psychic. You could try shouting at him or abusing him - that might help.

The target time to get trains moving is two hours but if you're at the back of a backlog it will be a lot longer before your train moves. If the squashee is still alive it can take longer as you have to extricate them carefully rather than put them in plastic bags.

Hope this helps!

Ollie said...

Just to let you know 11 was incorrect.

Incident involved 21:10 from Heathrow Terminal 4.

I was leaving Paddington on a train by 22:40.

Anonymous said...

I agree that we should be told which platform is being used. I understand that they keep this secret in order to stop people baording prematurely but I think the policy is counter productive ebcause when the platform is eventually announced people start running and this is dangerous. It also removes teh incentive to getto the station in good time ("to make sure I get a seat"). Any surely the train will take longer to load if all the passengers haveto walk from the concourse rather thah step up from the platform.

If the issue is keeping people off the train whilst they are cleaned, why cant the doors be kept loacked to achieve this (or better still, if a train is late why not clean it on its way in on its pervious journey?)

If the pro

Anonymous said...

This is to the last annonymous poster:

Clean it on the previous journey?? Rather stupid, no?! If we don't call it for boarding, its obvious we do it so that there are no passengers on whilst we work, and on the previous journey, there will be, thats right! A TRAIN LOAD OF PASSENGERS.

We also can't just lock the doors, we need to get in and out! Tankers need to do their job, albeit from the outside, but contractors such as toilet cleaners need to get on and off.

At Sheffield we have the problem where we only use one platform, so everyone know that the train in the platform is, say, the 1627 to St Pancras. We have to lock the doors so the orange indicators go out - NORMAL people realise that you shouldn't get on! Despite them being locked, we leave 1 or 2 doors open, so we can still work - so you get that one idiot who runs towards that door and gets on, which generally causes the 100 or so people behind him to follow!

That's the problem - we can't say what platform a trains on, because 1 TWAT will get on, and everyone will follow! I know your response, "No we won't!" But COME ON, of COURSE you will!! You've been working all day, and you don't want to loose your seat to some twat who jumped the queue, so you'll go and get on it!

Also, at Sheffield, we have a 20 minute turn around time, (and that includes our break).
So, the 1325 from St Pancras arrives into Sheffield at 1546. Thats 2 hours and 15 minutes we have to be STANDING. We then have 5 minutes to get everyone off. Then we lock the doors. Cleaning takes 10-15 minutes, walking through looking for lost property takes about 5, leaving us with only about 5-10 minutes break before another 2 hour journey on our feet back to London. Now we're not really allowed to kick someone off the train if they board prematurely - could get a complaint put in - so we don't. So if someone boards too early, we get no break. That's a good 5 hours, walking through the train, doing ticket checks, the trolley service, complementaries, serving you your free tee and coffee, cleaning after Derby, dispatching at stations and right through that we're not even allowed a 5 minute break to have a coffee.

So no, I don't think we'll ever tell you what platform your train is on. Because of that one twat.

Richard said...

In Japan, the train comes into the terminal. Then, for the next 10 mins, its cleaned. What happens is all the passengers leave, the cleaners board and the doors are locked behind them for X minutes.
During that time, no one can leave or board the train.
After X minutes, the doors unlock and the cleaners can leave and the people board.
If you try to board the train AS the cleaner is boarding, you get shouted at by a very loud and angry train driver, shamed back onto the platform and the rest of the passengers look at you like you're the scum of the earth.

Maybe its not our trains that's rubbish, its our attitudes as people/passengers that cause the train companies to put in oddball policies, just to catch that one 'TW*T'.

Anonymous said...

"but contractors such as toilet cleaners need to get on and off."

So why not give them keys they allow them to do his whilst the doors remain locked to the public.

I realise that this solution might require the doors to be redesigned But how about making this option part of the specification of the HST replacement? In the meantime entry and exit is possible through the Guard's door (which could be labelled "not for public use"). or you could leave one door open before locking the others and hang a "no entry" sign on it. It is all very well to complain about the TW*T who will get on prematurely but I've never heard an announcement asking people not to do this.

"Clean it on the previous journey?? Rather stupid, no?! "

It is exactly what they do on Virgin trains - a bloke with a bin bag walks down the train taking people's rubish, picking up litter and flushing and disinfecting the toilets. I realise that this isn't a proper clean but I'd rather travel in a slightly dirty train than one that departs 20 minutes late because it has to be fully cleaned.

If a GNER HST can manage a 7 hour trip to Aberdeen without a "proper clean" I can't see why the occasional Bristol - London - Bristol trip (which would take less than 4 hours with a 5 minute turn around at Paddington) would be the end of the world.

In an ideal world you would have a platform on both sides of the track at the terminus. On arrival you open the doors on the exit side only for incoming passengers to get off and cleaners to get on and off. The train is announced in good time and everyone waits on the entry side for their doors to be unlocked.

Anonymous said...

"So if someone boards too early, we get no break. That's a good 5 hours, walking through the train, doing ticket checks, the trolley service, complementaries, serving you your free tee and coffee, cleaning after Derby, dispatching at stations and right through that we're not even allowed a 5 minute break to have a coffee."

I sympathise with you but not with the managers who devise the system. Your arguement is that you have to keep the platform secret so that you can ckean the train quickly and get a well deserved break. Couldn't this situation be solved by altering your work rosta so that the crew who brings one train in isn't the same crew to take the next train out but the crew who takes the next but one train out? You'd only need one more crew on duty every day to achieve this and if it leads to more punctual departures (fewer "awiting a member of train crew" announcements) I would have thought that it would pay for itself in few fines for poor performance

Anonymous said...

More intellegent staffing would solve many of FGW's problems. At Bath station a popular train is the 7:08 am to London and people regularly miss this train because of the long queques to buy tickets. BUT some ticket staff have a shift that starts at 7 am BUT by the time they have clocked on and sorted out the float in their till they start selling tickets at about 7:05 am which is too late for the 7:08 departure. Wouldn't it make sense for someone else to sort out their till or to bring the start and end of their shift forward by 5 minutes? It would also be good if someone could check all of the ticket machines before the morning rush starts to make sure that they are all well stocked with ticket blanks rather than waiting for them to run empty before refilling them.

In Brunel's day you would have had a station master with the drive and authority to spot and solve minor issues like that. Now we have "station managers".

Most of the grass-roots workers are hard working and conscientious and the big bosses are too important to deal with small problems, but I think the railway would be well served by a few more well placed "sargents"

Anonymous said...

To the person who mentioned that VT walk through with rubbish bags during the journey -

Yep, we do it on MML too, and it's normally me who does that. However, it obviously hard to clean a train properly with passengers on it, and we *have* to do it again at the terminus - (otherwise passengers will complain that the 1325 to Sheffield was dirty and we get into trouble...). And one more thing, next time the guy with the rubbish bag comes through, everyone, make sure your cups are empty! Your cold coffee leaks onto my shoes, you know...

Next, about the contractors. We can't give a panel key to every contractor - not even I have one! There's only one person on the whole train who has one - (the train manager). Before anyone says "i've seen loads of people with one", that's not the metal key - (t or carriage key), but another key used to activate the panel. Obviously these cannot be spread around as these can unlock the doors on intercity rolling stock.

Next. Selective door opening is not available on HST's, (although it is common practice which solves these problems on Meridians). Anyway. You can't open one door without unlocking ALL of the doors - and that includes the guards door. The TM's office isn't regularly used on Midland Mainline, anyway.

If you look at the windows on the doors on MML HST's it does say please do not board until the orange LED lights are illuminated. However, most people totally ignore this, and, I guess, a no entry sign would have the same affect.

Next, i've seen a couple of people commenting that you'd rather have a dirty train than a late one.
There are often "T-10" turn arounds, when a train has 10 minutes to get in and get out. That's for trains that are running late. For that, EVERYONE, (i've seen managers doing this aswell), including those on breaks, has to be up on the platform before the train arrives. As soon as the train gets in, you help passengers off with luggage, that should take one minute. By this time tankers are connected and have started. Usual practice with cleaning, except there is normally two or three people per carriage, and luggage checks go on during cleaning.

Also if cleaning a train at all will delay the train, the train will not be cleaned, and there will be no seat reservations on that train, (as, obviously, someone has to put them there), if they have not been rezzied on the way in.

And to the person who commented that they sympathise but not with managers; thank you. The problem is that managers impose these rules, and we have to follow them, but the thing is, they're not there to do it, and they're not there to face the customers complaints when they arise.