I spoke too soon

  • 30/6/14
  • Richmond – Waterloo – Waterloo East – London Bridge – Return

Twenty-one years ago John Major’s government privatised British Rail. This means that in 2014 many of the rail journeys that I take involve multiple companies providing either the trains, or the stations, or both. I’ve mentioned before that the willingness of the individual staff makes a huge difference to that the process of travelling, but it’s also true that which companies are involved affects how successful the journey is likely to be.

Recently, I’ve travelled between Waterloo East and London Bridge a number of times for both business and pleasure. These stations are run by Southern, and I’ve always found them better than average. Staff are available at help points to point you in the right direction, and are visible on platforms to get assistance. They clearly have a defined process which they stick to and which works, and so it proved today arriving at London Bridge. In fact, as I left the train I thought it appropriate to offer some positive feedback and told the customer services assistance what a good job he and his colleagues were doing.

This was my downfall. The universe heard me.

The return journey started predictably enough with the train dispatcher contacting his assistance colleague. This is the usual procedure and I went to wait at the appropriate place on the platform. Something seemed amiss when the train arrived but a ramp didn’t. I pretty much knew at this point that I wasn’t catching this train, but the triumph of hope over experience propelled me down the platform to the dispatcher I’d originally talked to. Although I couldn’t follow the ensuing conversation over the radio, what was clear to me was that I’d been forgotten in the seven or so minutes since I’d arrived. Without actually apologising he sent me back to where I’d been standing and pointed me towards a door to knock on. As I arrived I was met by a young enthusiastic guy who told me he’d just started and I was his first job of the day. Whilst I’m sure this was genuine, it did feel a bit like “it’s not my fault.” True to his word, he did assist me to board the right train some five minutes later.

My mildly miffed mood was not helped when I started the next leg of the journey at Waterloo. I will admit I turned up to the platform only four or five minutes before it was due to depart but with a little effort and co-operation it would have been possible to catch the train. Instead, the platform assistant spent two minutes grumpily lecturing me on the importance of turning up for trains in a timely manner. Needless to say, by the time she had finished, my window of opportunity had closed and I sloped off to find an alternative train.



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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