Friday, August 10, 2007

The McDemo photo

So, here it is, Mark Thomas and one of his McDemo colleagues hating First Great Western on our behalf. They certainly don't look very happy, but that might be because they had a total of 181 demos to do that day, and I think this was the first.

Still no cheque from First Great Western, but this may be partly due to the postal system collapsing around our ears.

The Insider has posted a very interesting explanation of the madness and complications of the fare system, so if this is your particular beef, go and visit him here. I tried to read it all, but began to lose the will to live about half way down, I'm so glad I'm not the one trying to sell the tickets, the system's a mess!

I'm beginning to feel a bit like a message board, so let me tell you a story instead.

I'm on a late shift again. Last time I worked a late shift on a Friday, there was a drunken businessman being sick next to the departure boards. Let's call him Mike. He wasn't in a good way, and a kind young drunken man was trying to help him get home. Let's call him Jim. Then a much less kind drunk person decided that Jim was patronising Mike, and tried to have a fight with Jim. So far, so typical of Friday nights on Paddington Station.

But then, amazingly, everyone joined in to look after Mike. Once he was on the train, the whole carriage decided he was their pet project for the way home. Despite the fact that he kept disappearing under the luggage rack to be sick, everyone was very nice to him, and made sure he got onto the platform safely at Reading. I'm afraid to say I don't know what happened to him after that, as I didn't really fancy taking him home in my car, what with him being sick everywhere every five minutes and all. The most intriguing thing about Mike was that he was carrying two umbrellas. Jim was very concerned that either he'd stolen the second umbrella, or, more worryingly, that it belonged to another extremely drunk businessman who he'd lost somewhere along the way.

There are two things I took away from that journey. The first is that drunken people aren't always annoying and stupid, though they usually are. That trip was fun, everyone was in a good mood, and the atmosphere was great.

The second is that I thank FGW from the bottom of my heart for the off-peak first class upgrade that will allow me to escape the worst of the pantomime tonight, as it's not usually anywhere near as fun as that.


gezkc said...

It's a shame Mark Thomas didn't get the address of your blogspot (or indeed the company he's supposed to be hating!) right on his protest board!
The politicians who witnessed it are probably still puzzling over who "Great First Western" are!!

I'd have a quiet word with him if I were you...
These comedians eh? Tch!

I hate FGW said...

Oh my god you're right! I hadn't noticed, so busy was I scanning the thing into my computer.

Anonymous said...

have a look at today's Bath Chronicle. It seems that FGW can't take criticism. Personally I think it is great news. if they are overreacting like this it means that their critics have touched a nerve

Insider said...

I think that if FGW could not take criticism, there would be a lot of nervous breakdowns in Milford House.

However, some of what London Travelwatch is saying is not criticism, it is libel, because it is inaccurate to the point that it borders on complete fiction.

But of course the media loves this kind of thing. Nothing like jumping on a bandwagon to boost circulation.

That sounded really bitter but I don't care because I'm actually quite annoyed at the situation.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone actually know what London Travelwatch actually said.

I got the impression that they called for FGW's franchise to be removed because their preformance was so bad. If that was all that they said I fail to see how it was liabelous. FGW may argue that their preformance was not bad enough to have caused a breach in the franchise contract and they may be right but LT's statement would still be "fair comment" because FGW's preformance was appauling (especially initially) and noone (not FGW or DfT) seem to have made public what the franchise conditions actually are (ie how bad would things need to get before FGW were booted off).

Also in order for something to be liabelous you have to harm the company's good reputation. It is arguable as to whether FGW actually has a good reputation that can be harmed.

Insider said...

In order to be considered libel, a statement must defame a named individual or entity in such a manner as to cause them material loss in their trade or profdession or cause a reasonable person to think worse of him, her or them.

It doesn't matter if the entity had a good name in the first place.

You are right, London Travelwatch did call for the revocation of the franchise. They also made a few statem,ents about performance and quoted a few statistics. And that's all I'm going to say on the matter.


Anonymous said...

How much does it cost to upgrade from a Saver Return to First Class?

I want to travel from Plymouth to London Paddington First Class.


Ollie said...

It depends, if you travel back weekend it will be £10, if you travel back during the week your ticket will just be upgrade to First Class equivalent so a First Saver Return, which I do not know price of top of my head.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Insider but your statement "It doesn't matter if the entity had a good name in the first place." is not correct

My point was that FGW's position in the community at the time that LT made its comments was arguably so poor that even if the statement was defamatory there could be no actual damage to FGW, failing the fourth requirement for a justified libel claim. The fact that you think that FGW's poor reputation was undeserved does not matter. there is plenty of evidence ranging from this blog to comments made by MPs that FGW had a very poor reputation.

I think that FGW would have a case if LT had said something outrageous about FGW (for example if they had said that their trains were unsafe or staffed by slave labour or that they put poison in the coffee sold in the buffet car - sorry I forget you don't do buffet cars on my route any more), but as far as I am aware LT's criticism amounted to no more than a moan about very poor preformance. As such it did not go beyond the view that lots of people (perhaps unfairly) already held of FGW.

It is easier to defame an upstanding citizen than it is to defame someone who the public already think is a bit dodgy. If I falsely accused Terry Wogan of being in an adulterous realationship with me and he sued me he would probably win. If I made the same false acusation against Tom Jones, and he sued he would have a harder time to win his case because he has been accused of adultery many times before and he would need to prove that one more acusation even if not true had harmed his reputation.

LT also have a strong public interest defence. They may also have qualified privilege becaus ethey were arguably exercising their statutary duty, unless it can be shown that they acted maliciously.

FGW cannot expect to keep the wording of their franchise agreement confidential "because it is commercially sensitive" (I reaslise that DfT also require this to be kept secret) and then fly off the handle when inacurate speculation is made about whether or not they have breached the franchise.

The fact that FGW felt the need to over react in this way gives me comfort. If they lost the franchise their reputation would really suffer (as would their share price). The fact that they chose to sue LT leads me to belive that someone in the First Group is concerned that the loss of the FGW franchise might actually become reality. I hope that it is a sufficient scare for them to get their act together.

Insider said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Insider said...

Although I said that I would not say any more, I will, and I feel that I must disagree with anonymous.

If LT are calling for the revocation of FGW's franchise, then fair enough, many have. To do so coupled with inaccurate facts and figures can be considered libelous because even if FGW's reputation could not be further sullied, such a report that creates an implication or impression that the franchise is or should be in danger will affect share prices and thus cause material loss.

The 5 point test for libel that I assume you are refrring to is generally only a factor in United States law. Engligh law allows libel to be brought on the test of material loss or damaged reputation.

I do take your point that LT may be able to claim qualified priviledge on the public interest basis. However, qualified priviledge is generally applied to reporting allegations that later turn out to be false. If they reported false statistics when the correct ones were available to them, and to the public, then that is a lack of research, and not truly covered under priviledge, or good faith for that matter.

In any case, if FGW can prove that 'facts' presented by LT are false, then they are entitled to take legal action to obtain a retraction, which is what they are doing in the first instance.

Billyo said...

If I were defending LT in this case I'd suggest that the vast majority of their customers have no choice but to use the train to commute to work. No matter how bad the service, and no matter how many bad things are said about them, we still have to pay our fares and go to work.

Anonymous said...

First Group “tesco” of the railways, this is what their business is strategy is modelled on (used by tesco) every little helps, who?? hoho anyone see the dairy products price fixing?? The sooner wings are clipped concerning franchise ownership the better.
I once heard an old passenger from Reading use “their clueless” comment in his thick West Country true!!
As long as DFT boxes are ticked and the First Group image is good, who cares about anyone else!!

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