The Campaigners Dilema

  • 27/6/14
  • Richmond – Willesden Jct – Euston- Return

I’ve said before how much difference the goodwill of the customer assistance staff makes to the success of my journeys, as well as making the whole thing a more pleasant and more friendly experience. It’s very difficult not to build up relationships with the people at the stations you visit often. But these relationships give rise to the campaigners’ dilemma. Let me explain.

Once again I find myself needing to get to Euston and so head off on the Overground from Richmond. As usual, the CSA helps me with a ramp onto the train at Richmond and then goes off to phone ahead to make sure that I’m met. For the Overground this means calling Control, who then contact the individual stations.

It’s again disappointing, but not entirely unexpected, that when I arrive at Willesden there’s nobody there to meet me. I apply the usual routine then of parking myself in the door so the train can’t depart whilst my travelling companion goes hunting for assistance. After some minutes, one of the regular staff members arrives with a ramp and the usual cry of “no-one told me.” (Ker-ching – another donation to the slap-up meal fund.) After a brief conversation I head off to the next platform to wait for my connection.

As we wait for the train my travelling companion and I come to the inevitable conclusion that these failures really need reporting and not just blogging. Unfortunately the wind’s rather taken from our sails when my friendly CSA arrives and confesses that the fault was entirely his, he had received a call but had written the information down wrong. This presents me with a moral dilemma. Certainly the process failed and needs addressing, but it was human error and the human involved is extremely apologetic and to be honest, I really don’t want to get him into trouble. He has been and continues to be very good to me. As the train arrives and I board, I’m left mulling the conundrum. To complain or not to complain, this is the question.

The question was still on my mind when I boarded the train later at Euston for the return journey. As usual the CSA put the ramp out and phoned Control. By this time, I’m wondering quite why he bothered as when we arrived at Willesden there is no sign of assistance. Sometimes when this happens my fellow passengers try to help. The likelihood of this increases proportionally to the amount of alcohol consumed, and tonight it was very, very likely! Of course, what they don’t realise, is that the chair and I weigh nearly two hundred kilos together and any assistance proffered is likely to result in injury to us both. I therefore dissuade them from assisting in what I hope is a polite but very firm voice, instead choosing to park myself in the door as usual. After about thirty seconds, and much to the panic of the passengers around me, the driver proceeds to shut the doors, which are prevented from doing so by having a large electric wheelchair wedged between them. Despite passengers now standing on the platform trying to alert the driver, he attempts to close the door another four times before somebody reaches the cab to let him know what’s going on. Reluctantly he leaves his cab and walks down the platform looking for a customer services assistant, passing both the ramp on the train and the ramp on the platform in his search. When his search comes up empty, rather than expedite the situation and use the ramp (I assume because drivers don’t do ramps), he instead uses his phone to summon help. Eventually my friendly CSA who’d made the mistake earlier in the day arrived and helped me off, adamant that this time nobody had told him (ker-ching.)

Whilst all the passengers did seem very accommodating and nobody blames me, I can’t hep feeling some responsibility for that train being ten minutes late and any other side-effects it had on other trains for the remainder of the evening. Of course delayed trains cost the company tens of thousands in fines. I don’t feel at all guilty about this.

Whilst awaiting my connection I was able to confirm that indeed it was true, Control had not contacted Willesden to warn them that I was coming. This has the happy side-effect of giving me the freedom to complain at a process failure without implicating my friend at Willesden.

I’ll let you know the response I get from the complaint.



About Alan

I'm an Economist, Geek, Campaigner & wheelchair user who's been using all forms of public transport for 20+ years.
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