Train talk

Right, the letter’s drafted [using the Lost Special post as the template and tweaking it a bit] but I wanted to wait one week to see what happened today before I sent it.

1. I was semi-mugged on the train going to work. They began with the menaces but then I joined them and gave ’em a heads-up about a station I knew where the ticket barrier wasn’t in force and they invited me to drink all day with them instead. Strange yobs.

2. There’s something new to add to the complaint to the rail company. I’ll tell you while the pizza’s in the oven now and by the way, the double pepperoni at Iceland costs £1 only. Great value. 680 gram potato wedges for £1.

Anyway, twas about to get on the train with everyone else and there was a woman inside, blocking the door, screaming at someone else – turns out it was a rail company employee. She was demanding, over and over, which train got her to a station she mentioned – I knew that train bypassed that country station and couldn’t see what this was all about. Besides, passengers were waiting to get off and we were waiting to get on.

The woman finally stormed off the train and disappeared. I thought I’d talk to the employee who was being shouted at. Turns out she didn’t know anything about when which train went where. I asked why she didn’t, if she was wearing a company badge – that it was only logical passengers would approach her for information.

The poor woman was on edge so the gentler approach was needed. First I told her [in a gentle voice] which train didn’t stop where and then asked what she was actually doing – checking if the trains ran on time?

No, she said, I’m checking how many get on and off at each station.

Ah, this is useful, is it? She looked nonplussed. No matter, they probably want to know whether to increase to 6 carriages from 3.

She looked just as bewildered, then explained that she didn’t travel by train, she didn’t know anything about trains.

And yet you wear the company badge, with your name handwritten on it. As she’d already turned her badge inwards so no one would know she was from the company, she wondered how I knew that.

I explained I’d seen it from outside the train.

No, I’m not employed by XXXX – she was scathing. They hired my company who sent me.

Do you know why that woman shouted at you? She nodded for me to continue. It was because no one except me knew you were not from XXXX. You’re in smart gear and are wearing the XXXX logo. Ipso facto, you are from them and therefore, know everything about the trains.

The woman who was shouting at you was a bit dim. At either end, there are boards listing the stations the train does and doesn’t go to. Inside the train are electronic ticker boards which tell passengers the same – there are four in each carriage. She should have checked the boards.

However, she didn’t and you didn’t know either because you’re not being asked to know anything about the trains.


1. She missed her station

2. When you asked her if she was getting off here or not and she got off, she most likely went to the information office. Now, at this station, it means five minutes plus the man will tell her to look at the big board etc. Let’s call the whole process about fifteen minutes.

She’s therefore missed this train now, which does not go to her station and she’ll only just miss the next one, from here, which does go to her station. But she’ll be nicely in time for the one after that which doesn’t go to her station.

Oh dear. Well, I didn’t know, did I?

No and that’s not your fault. It wasn’t felt necessary that you, for this job, needed to know anything about the trains. They outsourced to your external company, which asked you to do this. The fault lies fairly and squarely with head office and I have the manager’s personal email which fell into my lap this morning.

The letter is up to about four pages at this point. This company is one of the least competent in the UK. The main problem is that they are employing the wrong people in management. My stationmaster confirms that. Imagine the wrong decisions on a cascade of issues and that’s XXXX.

It’s the same all over the country, she said. She then told me all the railways she’d been on these few days. All the companies are the same.

There it is in a nutshell, I replied. Why are they all like this, employing incompetents in key positions? All the incompetents see themselves as big managers and want to be at head office on big salaries. It’s some sort of empowerment for them. The ones who actually know what’s going on are downline but their voice is not listened to. They know too much.

She was warming to this so I went on. It’s outrageous that they let you face this without either preparing you or letting you wear your own company badge.

And I’m being made redundant on Thursday.

I’m really terribly sorry to hear it and I mean that. Did you read in the paper or see on TV that we’ve all recovered from the recession and all is now well? I wonder if you think it’s all good now? I’ve been where you are and my thoughts will be with you. When I get home I shan’t forget. Sorry but I have to get off here. Best of luck.

And best of luck to you. Nice talking to you.

1 comment for “Train talk

  1. amfortas
    October 28, 2012 at 12:23

    Thank the Lord we don’t have trains in Tasmania. If we did, our incompetent feminist-green-socialist Government would try to improve it and make it more woman-friendly.

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