Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hello? Can I say it more loudly?

The past few days have seen quite a debate about whether or not London TravelWatch libelled First Great Western when they wrote to the government criticising its punctuality record, and suggesting that its franchise be taken away.
Now, I frankly don't care whether or not the comments made were defamatory, because that is not the point.
The point is this, and it's the point of this whole blog, the only reason it exists, other than to give me something to do during those quiet moments at work.
The point is: customers of First Great Western are not happy. We are not happy with the fact that despite paying very high prices for our train tickets, we do not get the service we need in order to go about our business. We are not happy because when we try to get a refund, we are always sent the standard brush-off letter, and are forced to complain again and again before we get any sensible response. We are not happy because there are not enough carriages on the trains, so we are forced to spend hours sweating like sardines in the dirty foyers. And we are not happy because (pause to take large breath) WE FEEL AS THOUGH NO-ONE IS LISTENING!
I don't care who runs my trains. If First Great Western would listen to us for long enough to make a few improvements and run things a little better, I'd be happy for them to run the service. I know that the main problems are the Department for Transport, Network Rail and years of neglect. And, I don't think FGW should have the franchise taken away, because the next company probably wouldn't do any better. But, guess what? We have a few ideas, and we'd like a bit of dialogue. It's the mushroominess of it that I can't stand, being kept in the dark and being fed bullshit.
So, please, can we have a conversation about how we can improve the system, rather than having a fight about who said what to whom, and who started it?
Thank you.


Anonymous said...

FGW need to listen to us and sort out our monor grumbles but we also need a change in attitude.

Despite the problems the rail industry is sucessful - more passengers and frieght are carried every year. I'd like to see the companies and the government treating this as good news and a great opportunity rather than a problem to be contained by fare increases and over crowding. If more people travel total costs increase (because you need to add an extra coach to your trains and lengthen platforms etc) but unit costs per passenger mile decrease (because each train still only needs one driver however long it is) and value for money in term of costs/benefits also increase.

My strategy to achieve a better railway should therefore be to push for growth. Unfortunately this country is controlled by the treasury who only care about cost ("affordability" is what they call it) rather than value, and in Ruth Kelly we have a transport minister who publishes a white paper claiming to contain a strategy which turns out to not be a strategy at all.

Examples of strategy would be "bring every city within 3 hours of the capital like they are doing in Spain", or "ensure that all of the new homes to be built in the SE are within 100m of a bus stop and 1km of a railway station like Merseyside PTE is doing" or "make sure that all rail journey times are competive with the road like Scotlands National Rail Strategy will achieve". Ruth Kelly's "strategy" for our region is "add 4 new platforms at Reading". That is not a strategy that is a minor adjustment a finetuning of the sort that should be taken at the level of a regional manager not of a minister.

Anonymous said...

> ensure that all of the new homes to be built in the SE are within 100m of
> a bus stop and 1km of a railway station

Now that sounds like a very sensible strategy. Combined with planning laws/incentives to make sure the businesses and shops are also within limits. i.e. none of this building for cars rubbish that just escalates our dependancy on it.

P.S. black (comment link) on dark blue (background) is very hard to see.

Simon said...


There are many things that the government/FGW can do now.

Add more carriages to peak trains. I DO NOT CARE IF A FEW STATION PLATFORMS ARE NOT BIG ENOUGH. The problem is that the trains are too short!

Introduce Off Peak Season Tickets, to encourage more off peak use of trains

I still find it hard to understand how the government can sanction more capacity in other areas (that receive a subsidy), whilst FGW is set to lose capacity and pays for its franchise.

Its a mad world!