Saturday, November 27, 2010

A(nother) wee grumble about First Scotrail

Before I start, please don't get the idea that I think any of this is actually important, because some really awful things have happened to people I care about in the last few weeks. Frankly a delayed train journey doesn't really count for much in comparison, but I have half an hour free before Strictly so I might as well tell you about it.

You know what I'm like about snow and ice - or if you don't, utterly petrified just about covers it. Waking up to see a couple of inches of white stuff this morning did not make me happy, particularly as I had plans to go into Edinburgh to see a friend who was paying a flying visit to the city.

However, with Bob and Anna's help, I managed to get on the train, and arranged to meet him literally across the road from the station in the City Arts Centre, a favourite with me since we used to hold our La Leche League leaders meetings in there. I can definitely recommend the banana and pecan cake, by the way, despite the fact that it looked like it had an artistic ribbon of tomato ketchup next to it, although I was also tempted to try the chocolate and beetroot.

Anyway, emboldened by the fact that the pavements seemed very not slippy, I suggested we go for a little walk after we'd had our coffee so we also had a look round Waterstone's in Princes Street. I managed to be disciplined enough not to spend any money, which is something of a miracle. The raised husbandly eyebrow when Rob Wilson's "5 Days to Power" arrived this morning made me think better of it. Just as an aside, I had ordered both that and David Laws' version - but Amazon ran out of Laws' "22 Days in May" and can't get it to me until 17th December.

So, after I saw Ed onto his train, I thought I had plenty time to wander round to mine. When I got there, a full 10 minutes before departure, I realised it was Sardine Class already. I managed to squeeze on, but I really feared for the person next to me's ribs if I fell on her. So, we had a very full train that went precisely nowhere. Then the conductor announced that this train was cancelled and we should all go to a platform at the other end of the station to find a train to Bathgate. So, a tidal wave of people marches forth. Just as we'd got there, a station announcement said that anyone wanting to go to Bathgate had to go to the platform next to the one we'd just left.

I did wonder if this was a bizarre sort of survival of the fittest trial by First Scotrail to make the train less busy, but it seems it was just plain old cock up. There was actually a train at platform 13, but unfortunately, because the display board said it was going to Glasgow, not Bathgate. Not unreasonably, it was full of people who wanted to go to Glasgow while we Bathgate travellers were pressing our noses at the windows wondering if we were ever going to get home.

Eventually, the train started to empty, but a fair proportion of the people waiting to get on were confused about whether the train was going to Glasgow or Bathgate and there was nobody from First Scotrail to tell them. The conductor became very grumpy when a passenger explained to him that people were confused.

When we thought that everyone was off, we started to get on the train, only to be shouted at by the conductor as though we were naughty children because we hadn't realised there were others to still get off.

You would think, then, that there would be some sort of apology when we finally got moving, some acknowledgement that First Scotrail had mucked it up. I'd have been happy with something like "I'm sorry for the confusion and delay. We mucked up and we'll try and do better in the future." Is that really too much to ask for?

When I read this back it seems like I'm turning into Victor Meldrew - but it does frustrate me when situations like this are handled badly time and time again. I may not get the train very often, but my husband is always full of horror stories about his daily commute. First Scotrail really need to look at how they can change their systems and improve their communication so they deliver a service that meets the customer's, not their own, needs.

1 comment:

Jacq Kelly said...

You are of course right that in the greater scheme of things worse can happen, but that doesn't change the fact that when they do happen they can be a complete nightmare. I personally hate when these things happen because of not being able to see at all well these days. While I'm sure there are some great staff at First ScotRail but they are too thin on the ground. It's a shame - you are so right that if they would just acknowledge and say sorry it would make all the difference. Meh.


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