Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cutting the mustard

I'm not sure exactly what's going on at First Great Western with regard to First Class passengers, but something's up. As I reported in a previous post, my friend wrote to me complaining that there were staff on the platform at Reading trying to stop people even standing where the First Class carriages were going to stop, and threatening penalty fares for anyone who set foot in so much as the vestibule of the First Class section.
Then, this morning, I was standing quite properly at the front of the platform at Slough, ready to take advantage of my First Class off-peak upgrade. But the FGW dispatcher clearly didn't think I was up to scratch, and checked with me and another passenger before we even entered the train, that we were aware that only First Class passengers were allowed into this hallowed door to enter the world of free Times newspapers, and faux-leather seating. "Standard class is at the back" he muttered gruffly, as if to say we weren't really dressed for the occasion.
For goodness sake! It's not as if you even get a cup of tea between Slough and London, so I'm not sure what all the fuss is about, and this was at 1245 in the afternoon, so the train was hardly packed full. Has there been some kind of anti-riff-raff rebellion by the besuited types? I feel that FGW should perhaps be considering their priorities in regard to what they're telling their staff; talk about making us feel like second-class citizens. Or perhaps they know who I am, and are trying to indicate their feelings for the blog. I think I'd be a positive asset to First Great Western, I'm full of great ideas, how about bringing me on board? On board, see what I did there? I'll go now.


Anonymous said...

apparently (from a lovely lady...)

"We have had First Class customer complaints about Standard Class passengers standing in the vestibules and in the First Class
carriages. They pay a premium and to use their coach as a queuing point,
or to stand around the door causing it to open and close does reduce the "ambience", especially as it can be large groups of people and not individuals on some trains.

There is also some evidence to suggest that at some Stations, and on some trains, boarding into the First Class vestibule can lead to travelling in the First Class carriage with an invalid ticket in the expectation that the journey can be completed before the ticket can be checked. Again our First Class passengers have quite rightly challenged us to demonstrate that we are taking steps to prevent this. But, the last thing we want is a
prohibitive announcement or rigid enforcement of a rule when harm is not always done.

This leaves us in the bizarre but pragmatic situation of supporting inconsistency in our own policy. By which I mean it is wrong, and remains wrong to enter the First Class carriage (including the vestibules) at any
point with a Standard Class ticket but enforcement of this rule will be kept to a minimum. This does mean that it will be enforced sometimes, and maybe (as has happened recently) it may happen on more than one occasion in quick succession."

Lord Hutton said...

So there!
They can be heavy handed when acting on complaints (as when I complained to them about never having to pay. The next week, some thug without a ticket machine was insisting I had to travel in the rear two coaches, when, as a member of staff asking for tickets, he should have been able to sell me one)

Dan said...

Hi guys, i am using the free first class upgrade to, at the age of 13 the ticket guys think i am a "hooligan" and ask me to leave in a harsh manner without even checking my ticket.

When i say i have a fc ticket they snatch it from my hand look at it and say "no its standard OUT"

I have to tell them i have the free first class upgrade they don't know about etc... It takes the guy 5 mins to read the terms and conditions and then he walks out without saying a word.

This is not just one guy THIS IS ALL OF THEM.

Anonymous said...

its not all of them dan, I am one of those, and as long as you show me your season ticket and free upgrade, i will have no problems, so please dont tar us all with the same brush

Anonymous said...

On the subject of 1st class upgrade vouchers, there are those season-ticket holders that sit in 1st and express surprise when told that time constraints apply with the vouchers. Although I frequently have told passengers on season tickets to move into 1st class on the trains where this is valid (and write down the web-site address for them to get the vouchers), on the trains where they are not valid, I do enforce the terms and conditions.

This has resulted in my being verbally abused, threatened, and one loser even e-mailed (within 20 minutes of getting off the train) that I was "being officious and trying to catch people out" by checking tickets and informing her that her standard class season ticket was not valid in 1st on a train departing London before 8pm. (She forgot to mention that she had to be warned twice for her foul language, funny that!) She got off at Slough - any relative?

Like everything in life, you get what you pay for, if you are not willing to pay for First Class, then don't moan when told you can't travel in it.

Tim said...

FGW seem unable to properly manage their on train staff. They can't even get them to carry out ticket checks or operate SDO correctly. Rather than get a grip (and risk a strike?) and support the good guys and sack the useless staff, they take the cowardly route of getting the more pliant (and persumably more easily replaceable) station staff to do the jobs like checking tickets that should be done on the train. telling you which piece of platform to stand onwould seem to be a ridiculous example of this. The staff on the train ought to be able to check tickets and police first-class but they are too lazy to do this.

dan said...

Sorry anon, i know all train managers aren't like that. It used to be like that, now its ok and i have even made friends with a few conductors.

I hate FGW said...

Please don't abuse people on my blog. Here is the offending comment, with the swearing taken out, as, if I delete it completely, some moron will accuse me of deleting comments because I don't agree with them. You can say what you like, but please don't abuse each other. I feel like a teacher in the playground.

Tim, may I just say you are *****.....

you are obviously know nothing of the working of the trains, and just make up mindless dribble....

we are paid to do a job, by inspecting tickets, if you do not like that, may i suggest you drive your ******* car to work

thank you

25 June 2008 06:44

Tim said...

"we are paid to do a job, by inspecting tickets" if that is the case why does my ticket get checked less than it used to? Bath to London I get my ticket checked perhaps once in every two or three journeys. Five years ago, when it was possible to buy your ticket on the train, I got my ticket checked 9 times out of ten even through the TM was much busier selling tickets! Some TM are great but some of them spend far too long sculking in their office. I'm sorry if you don't like to hear this but it is my experience of what actually happens.

Anonymous said...

Tim, When you say ticket inspectors do you mean the guard/train manager? These days the train manager is given more tasks to carry out than ever before and these days they also have to sort out all sort of petty squabbles that were sorted out in an adult fashion in years gone past. (he's sitting in my seat). You may have read in the newspaper that there are 45% more passengers than 10 years ago, have you not noticed all of the extra seats? In fact there are more people on less trains with less staff than ever before. Have you not noticed this? Far from being lazy, the train manager has never had to work so hard. Starting from the rear of the train it is often not possible to make it to the front before the journey ends. Also the train manager has to be at the rear of the train for dispach purposes, they could be anywhere even 5 years ago. How much time do you think it takes to do this?
You seem to think you know a lot about SDO and generalise that all train managers do this wrong as well. Are you a competence manager for FGW?
Your generalisation that train managers are too lazy to check tickets is bound to provoke a reaction.

Why not check your facts out before spouting off.

Tell us Tim, what perfect industry do tou work in?

Anonymous said...

Dear Ihatefgw,

I dont condone swearing by anyone and the comments by anonymous are very sad, however in my humble opinion your blogsite by its very title must be partly responsible for the reactions that are posted. With your message of hate, or should it be ****, you are bound to stir people like Tim up into thinking its ok to post messages of hate against the staff at FGW.
Also I notice that your friend at Firstlatewestern, economy claus, is now using the f word in his blogs, something that children can access.
You bloggers need to clean up your own acts before pointing the finger at others.

Tim said...

I have never posted a "message of hate to FGW staff" and neither has Ecomony Klaus or the owner of this blog. (We don't hate any of FGW's staff. FGW as a company might be an apropriate target of hate but not individual human beings involved in it). Anonymous needs to learn the difference between criticism and hate. Even unfounded and unjustified critism is not the same as hate.

All I did was suggest that on-train staff (and I appologise for not knowing the difference between Train Manager, Guard and Ticket inspector - I am just an ordinary passenger after all) did not appear to be as well managed as platform staff and that *some* of them took advantange of this and had become demotivated and lazy. I am sorry if this doesn't fit with your view of reality but it is the impression that I, as a regular passenger of 7 years, get.

You say that TMs have more jobs than they used to and that the trains are busier. That is not necessarily true of the trains on which I travel regularly. On the morning Bath-London HSTs, the TM used to sell about 10 tickets per coach. This no longer happens and so he/she has about 50 fewer tickets to sell each journey. The extra time saved ought to be enough to check the extra 50 or passengers on the train? Anyway, even if it was true, then FGW should employ more people on train rather than on the platform.

I assume that platform staff are cheaper and more easily replaceable than the Guys on the train - I was hypothesizing that this might be why FGW was keen to increase their numbers and give them more jobs to do over on train staff - This seems to be a pragmatic but rather cowardly decison of FGW management.

Lack of ticket checks due to the time taken by new dispatch procedures are a result, are they not, of management decsisons which is what my original post was criticising?

As for SDO, I admit that I do not have so much experience of this because I only travel on SDO routes to Worcester occasionally, but I do note that things are better now than they were when first introduced. This suggests to me that staff and/or management made mistakes when the system was first introduced (do you agree?). This might have been due to poor training, bad management or staff incompetance. I don't know or care what the cause was but all of those possible causes are things that would not have occured if FGW's management of on-train staff was better which was the point of my original post - FGW does not manage its on-train staff as well as it might and as well as it manages the people on the platform.

The impression that I get from FGW staff who post on this and other forums is, that they are angry about peceived unfare criticism of them but that they are also somewhat anti-passenger and their attitude (this is not just my impression - read the posts by Lord Hutton and Dan also) and that many of them assume that every passenger is going to be a fare dodger or hooligan and that if anyone complains about the service he should **** *** and drive his car to work instead. This kind of attitude is not going to win you any sympathy with the public. I also note that the helpful and friendly staff out their (and their are plenty of these guys too) are the ones who look the happiest with their jobs.

FYI - I am a research immunologist working at a University and no this is not an "industry" that is well managed (and I admit to workplace laziness myself), but it is, I hope, one that can take criticism and not misinterpret it as "hate".

Anonymous said...

Tim, just to enlighten you, ticket checking is what the guard does when there is nothing more important to do. As a train guard, my main responsibility is the safe and punctual running of the train. I then have to spend a not inconsiderable length of time answering queries from traveling passengers concerning connections, tickets, seat reservations, etc.

Combine this with the job of selling tickets (3-4 minutes if the passenger doesn't argue, anything up to 15 if they do), and when you realise that the average length of time between each station from Reading to Bristol temple Meads is 15 minutes, then there is not a lot of time.

Of course, we should not be having to sell many tickets on this route, as all stations have ticket machines or offices, and it is a criminal offense to get on a train without a ticket. Pointing this out to passengers, involves more time, arguments and abuse.

Criticism I can handle. Uneducated ill-informed whinging does annoy me. And if HATE is not what's involved, then why is the word used in so many blogs, including this one? Hate is a very emotive word.

I am curious to know why you think that the staff at whom this hate directed not entitled to tell the people directing this HATE at them where to get off?

Regarding your comments about Selective Door Opening, (SDO); SDO is a new method of working that was introduced to allow safer procedures at stations where the train will not fit on the platform, and to allow HST's stop at a greater number of stations. It was introduced for passenger benefits, and like all new systems, it had to be reviewed after introduction to improve problems that may not have been apparent. This is not bad management, it is, in fact, very good management, as there was a very quick response to staff feedback, rather than an insistence by management that staff stick to a method of working that staff on the ground felt could be improved.

Regarding telling passengers what part of the platform to stand, this is in keeping with instructions in the rule-book to ensure passengers are at the appropriate part of the platform, to allow for faster boarding and dispatch of the train, ensuring punctuality for everybody - including you.

FGW staff are not anti-passenger. However, we are not there to be whipping-boys for members of the public to use to take out their individual moods on. Just because someone is not giving you the answer you want to hear, it does not mean that person is being rude, any more than their priority being different to yours means that you are right and they are wrong. (On a personal note, how would you like to get off a train after a 4 hour journey, get straight on to the train across the platform and take it out 90 seconds later, then have the first passenger who's ticket you checked start complaining about the fact that Network Rail engineering works had added a whole 10 minutes on their 25 minute journey to Reading) I assume your priority is to complete your journey quickly - believe me when I say my priority is also to get you the hell off my train as quickly as possible!

If people HATE the service that much (which I may add, a lot of us go way over and above our job description to keep providing), then stop using it - that is the basic premise of capitalism. If you are going to use it, then try to make your comments sensible and informed. If you don't know what you are talking about, then either ask the question (which many people will be happy to answer), or keep your hands off the keyboard.

Tim said...

"I am curious to know why you think that the staff at whom this hate directed not entitled to tell the people directing this HATE at them where to get off?"

You CAN tell me where to get off if I direct Hate at you, but I have not done that. I hate the company you work for and the stupid franchise system that it operates under, I do not hate you as a person (how can I I haven't even met you). Saying "I hate FGW" NOT the same as personaly abusing you, in exactly the same way that saying "I hate war" is not the same as saying "I hate individual soldiers".

Economy Klaus said...

Hi folks, Economy Klaus of the First Late Western blog. Just wanted to confirm that I did indeed use the f-word in one of my recent postings as anonymous points out. But let's face it, if your train finally staggered back to your station at 2am and you had to be up to go back to work at 6am, I suspect you'd use the f-word!

That said, I'm not a big fan of the f-word and have only used it once in a year's blogging. Not bad for an FGW commuter - although let me stress I have never said the f-word - or any another swear word - to a member of FGW staff.

PS Lovin' the blog, ihatefirstgreatwestern. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Tim, You stated that the train staff were too lazy. YOU generalised and YOU said it.
Economy clause. You chose to stay back after work knowing that you had to be up early the next morning, how can that be the train company's fault?
And as for using the f word....well thats ok then isn't it.

Anonymous said...

Please take note Ihatefgw, according to economy clause, when people get angry, it is ok to swear on these blog sites.

Anonymous said...

Tim, we don't tell you how to classify your antibody-antigen reactions, don't tell us your ill-informed opinion of what you think railway staff should be doing. Now, go back to your test-tubes and annoy somebody else, there's a good chap. (By the way, I used to work in very close proximity to some immunologists - I hated them!)

Economy Klaus said...

And no, anonymous, I didn't choose to stay in London after work, I was taking a contact out for the evening - this is part of my job. I do it rarely, because I know just how high the potential for delays and problems is on the later trains. So no, not by choice.

Anonymous said...

Economy claus, so the train company forced you to take a client out on an evening when you had to be up for work early the next morning. Didn't the train company allow you to come in later? Didnt know you worked for first great western. Network Rail do repairs to the track when it inconveniences the least amount of people, and they need enough time to complete it before the morning commute begins. If they started and finished later you would be ranting and moaning about that too. Why not contact Network Rail and give them your schedule and then as soon as you arrive at paddington they can begin work, and never mind who else is inconvenienced so long as you are ok.... Always someone elses fault isnt it.

Anonymous said...

now i may be being a little harsh here, but it appears to me that mr anonymous is getting rather defensive.

Unfortunately some of us work in london. Unfortunately most of us have to travel with FGW. We have no real choice (believe me, i wish we did). Is it too much to expect a service that runs as advertised? Is it too much to expect a night out once in a while? Yes, it's not always FGW's fault. Unfortunately for them, they're the client facing side of rail privatisation - we have no real recourse to Network Rail.

And they do okay out of it - when the signal cable went at Didcot recently, they got compensation from Network Rail. Did the passengers see any of it? No - compensation refused. FGW must have made a tidy profit that day.

This site (and others) is a place for FGW passengers to vent spleens etc. I've seen (in the two odd years I've been reading this) no actual threats/insults to FGW staff. On the most part they're lovely (!) people just trying to do a job. You get some officious little ...persons, and some jobworths, but on the whole they're not bad.

Personally I think the service has been okay recently (And I've told them so), but dicking around with the timetable every 6 month is annoying, and i do know that if I get a train late at night, i can virtually guarantee it'll be late by Reading. But I work around that and accept it (still don't like it). But I should be able to (and do) slag them off for not running the service as advertised. Continuously.

Just my 2p worth.

Samuel Roberts said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Mr Roberts, I have just looked at your website - you really are a sad excuse for a human being, aren't you?

If you take my advice, you'd better go back to your Community Psychiatric Nurse and tell them that the anger management classes aren't working, and your medication needs changing.

I hate FGW said...

I'm sorry, I had to delete the last comment from the crazy Mr Roberts, it was just too mad. If you like mad sweary things, you're welcome to look at it

But only if you're feeling brave!

Anonymous said...

Well, the nuts read the title of your site and think they have found a kindred spirit...

Samuel Roberts said...

I don't think you people are fully committed to your own cause. You don't really hate FGW - you are just pretend gentry, who moan a little, swap haughty comments amongst each other before the Stilton and port evening at the village hall. You feign disdain about the state of play in first class vestibules and elevate both nostrils when a member of standard class soils your pretend hate website with something realistic.

Read my poem Tickets Please at for some "mad, sweary" type stuff: I call it realism, a state of being you may wake up to one day.

Anonymous said...

just thought i would say to that mr roberts that your poem is bit strange. now i do feel that fgw do need to do something about its train service . i work for them as a guard in devon and have done for 10 years. i come across muppets like you 7 days a week and it make us staff wonder how you make it through each day. now for the chap that was saying that nobody checks his ticket and you could buy it on the train 5 years ago please when you next at the station go and get a national conditions of carrage booklet. not sure of the date but it has been against the law to board a train where ticket can be please have a look at this booklet

Samuel Roberts said...

Well that's typical isn't it: on top of being shunned for my realism by the mock FGW haters, I am insulted and abused by a representative of First Great Western itself who was right in contemplating how I make it through the day, a comment induced no doubt from his own time keeping experiences vis-a-vis FGW.

Samuel Roberts said...

And in what manner do you come across muppets?

Samuel Roberts said...

I Hate IHateFirstGreatWestern:

Anonymous said...

the anonymous member of staff is quite right in all the facts he has stated.
i would like to add though as a member of staff also in the same role presently, there are a number fo staff who are bone idle in this occupation who seemingly allow this level of criticism to be levelled at all of us.
I do think however it is very easy and very understandable that if one is sat doing nothing more than eading the newspaper or gazing out of the window (and so would I be if I was travelling not working) that the viewpoint that 'no one has checked tickets in my coach yet or how long have we been sat at this signal/whats going on?' seems to (falsely) indicate the TM/staff are not dealing with these matters, in fact quite the opposite is true IME.
I do try to stress to new staff that when stopped out of course a PA should be made asap even if its a case of 'I know nothing and will keep you informed as I get updated) and that if you genuinely have insufficient time to check ALL tickets then a)do 1st (like it or not they complain more about this if it isnt done) and b) do a random coach check (ignore e and c maybe and do the others) or even 'anyone need to buy a ticket?' callover (dont laugh, it fulfils the obligation to make sure everyone has had the opportunity to buy, an important legal point if inspectors were to board or barrier check the train)

Anonymous said...

if you fancy a change you can always try the route from reading to waterloo its great only takes 1 hour 20 mins and only 14 stops

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