FGW delay: "Never apologise, never explain"

Status
Not open for further replies.

Squaddie

Member
Joined
6 Dec 2009
Messages
1,073
Location
London
Simon Calder's regular column in the Saturday edition of the Independent is devoted today to the experiences of passengers on a broken-down FGW train last Friday.

No happy endings to "The Great Escape" from Paddington

Simon Calder: No happy ending to 'The Great Escape' from Paddington

Few trains these days have names, but the 5.45pm each Friday night from Paddington to Swansea deserves to be called The Great Escape. It is packed with commuters heading home from work, augmented by Londoners escaping the capital to weekend hideaways from Gloucestershire to the Gower. Except last Friday night, that is. At the height of the bank holiday weekend getaway, seven miles and seven minutes outside London, the emergency brakes went on and stayed on. More than 500 passengers stopped escaping and began several hours of incarceration.

Apologetic staff walked through the train. They explained what had gone wrong, and what was being done to fix it. They dispensed bottles of water, advised about onward connections and handed out forms so passengers could claim the stipulated compensation for stewing in west London rather than strolling in west Wales.

Did they heck.

As the delay slowly erased a perfect summer evening, the train staff were nowhere to be seen. During the hiatus, only two accurate announcements were made, both by the lady in the buffet... (read more)


Why is it so apparently so difficult for train operating companies to properly manage delays such as this, and keep customers (yes, customers, as that's what the TOCs like to call us) informed? It's too easy to imagine the feelings of helplessness and utter hopelessness felt by the passengers in this situation, and it's far from being an isolated incident.

Should rail passengers be entitled to mandatory compensation for long delays, just as airline passengers are? Perhaps £100 for every hour's delay after the first two hours? That would focus a few minds.
 
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in
R

RailUK Forums

YorkshireBear

Established Member
Joined
23 Jul 2010
Messages
7,825
After an hours delay you get the full value of your ticket back..... We cant go giving out £100 for every hour delay. Someone commits suicide why should they have to fork out all that money? You can't separate delays properly as to the passenger any delay is a delay. There are already significant fines for delays lets not add more and drain the industry of yet more money.
 

michael769

Established Member
Joined
9 Oct 2005
Messages
2,006
Unfortunately this is all too common.

You would think that in such circumstances the train crew's line managers would make a point of ensuring that their reports have the information and support to cope with the situation and provide adequate care and information for their stranded passengers.

Sadly the reality is that they seem quite happy to leave their reports in the lurch to deal with several hundred distressed human beings, without any useful information and updates. I can only conclude that the industry chooses to employ managers who show a complete lack of any human empathy and compassion.

Given that the industry willfully refuses to improve how they deal these situation, or to learn any lessons from incidents where the situation has escalated to the point that lives have been put at risk, it is now time for the state to step in and ensure that ToCs provide an adequate minimum response to these situations.

I do like the idea of your compensation scheme. The prospect of having to pay out 4-6 figure sums after 2 hours might well concentrate the companies shareholders minds on ensuring that their senior managers make a greater effort in bringing adequate minimum levels of assistance to passengers in such circumstances.
 

Hellfire

Member
Joined
14 Dec 2012
Messages
552
I can see why paying out a fixed sum of money for each hours delay would be unfair on the TOC if, as has been stated, a delay really was beyond their control such as a suicide or landslip for instance.

However the lack of any meaningful attempt to keep people informed is inexcusable. FGW are completely at fault in this respect but it's difficult to know hoe to formulate a way to compensate passengers for what is a management failure.

Sadly this sort of scenario is not peculiar to FGW or, indeed, to railways in general. How many times do we see news reports of delays at airports for example where frustrated passengers complain that no information was available. Delays are always going to happen but it is the failure to keep passengers informed that makes things worse.
 

jimm

Established Member
Joined
6 Apr 2012
Messages
5,082
And oddly enough things go wrong on the roads too - two days running around Oxford last week.

http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/10393454.Traffic_problems_cause_May_Day_mayhem/

Oliver Evans in Oxford Mail said:

Traffic problems cause May Day mayhem

TRANSPORT bosses last night said there was nothing they could have done to avoid “horrific” traffic gridlock across Oxford yesterday.

A combination of emergency repairs, road closures, an accident and a broken-down vehicle caused problems across Oxfordshire’s roads.

Transport chiefs defended emergency gas repair work in Botley Road saying there was no choice but to carry it out as Magdalen Bridge was closed for May morning celebrations.

Southern Gas Networks said its staff worked late on Tuesday night to repair the leak.

But drivers were left questioning why – after lengthy queues – there were no workmen at the site when they eventually passed the works just after 9am.

Did Southern Gas tell anyone what was going on beforehand, or during the work, or give drivers their petrol money back? Course not.
 

Goatboy

Established Member
Joined
23 Jun 2011
Messages
2,274
And oddly enough things go wrong on the roads too - two days running around Oxford last week.

http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/10393454.Traffic_problems_cause_May_Day_mayhem/

Did Southern Gas tell anyone what was going on beforehand, or during the work, or give drivers their petrol money back? Course not.

Why do people consistently make this ridiculously flawed comparison?

When you are driving a car, you have not paid for carriage from A to B and you do not have a contract for carriage from A to B.
 

michael769

Established Member
Joined
9 Oct 2005
Messages
2,006
Did Southern Gas tell anyone what was going on beforehand, or during the work, or give drivers their petrol money back? Course not.

Do drivers pay Southern Gas to get from A to B? Did Southern Gas lock them in their vehicles and force them to stay there for hours on end?

Sorry but that is not a fair comparison.
 

jimm

Established Member
Joined
6 Apr 2012
Messages
5,082
Why do people consistently make this ridiculously flawed comparison?

When you are driving a car, you have not paid for carriage from A to B and you do not have a contract for carriage from A to B.

Who said anything about contracts?

My basic point was very simple. Train breaks down, as described by Mr Calder, people's journeys are disrupted (mine included, as my train home was stuck behind this one for the best part of an hour before it could be extricated and put on the relief line). Road gets dug up, brings city to standstill for best part of two days, in the process affecting way more people than were on that train - and at a hefty cost to the local economy as well.

We don't live in an ideal world. Things go wrong, whether trains, or gas mains under roads. Get over it.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Do drivers pay Southern Gas to get from A to B? Did Southern Gas lock them in their vehicles and force them to stay there for hours on end?

Sorry but that is not a fair comparison.

So FGW forced them, did it? Should it just let them out to wander around on a working main line railway instead?

I repeat - things go wrong, get over it.
 

Goatboy

Established Member
Joined
23 Jun 2011
Messages
2,274
Who said anything about contracts?

It's what seperates a car driver from a train passenger.

I repeat - things go wrong, get over it.

When you are operating a commercial service for profit and things go wrong with your internal processes, your customers are rightly compensated.
 

Flamingo

Established Member
Joined
26 Apr 2010
Messages
6,818
Should rail passengers be entitled to mandatory compensation for long delays, just as airline passengers are? Perhaps £100 for every hour's delay after the first two hours? That would focus a few minds.

No problem. In reverse, should passengers be subject to zero flexibility and "discretion" in relation to ticket irregularities, as also occurs on the airlines?

That would also concentrate a few minds as well.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
When you are operating a commercial service for profit and things go wrong with your internal processes, your customers are rightly compensated.

They are compensated. It's in their contract.
 

GadgetMan

Member
Joined
9 Jan 2012
Messages
892
This lack of announcements issue is more of a Traincrew failure than an instutional one. Yes FGW have overall responsibility over their employees, however it is part of the Guard's role to keep passengers informed even if it is to say he/she doesn't quite know what the problem is or the expected length of delay.

I find it difficult to believe FGW train their staff to NOT make any announcements during disruption.
 

michael769

Established Member
Joined
9 Oct 2005
Messages
2,006
This lack of announcements issue is more of a Traincrew failure than an instutional one.

I cannot agree with this. In my experience train crew try to do their best by passengers despite a lack of adequate support from their line managers.

The reason they don't make annoucements is because they are not given any useful informtion to pass on.

I have witnessed train staff using personal mobiles to call the crew of another train to see if they knew anything useful. Quite simply they should never have to do that, their line manger should be ensuring they have proivided with the information they need to care for their passengers.

I find it difficult to believe FGW train their staff to NOT make any announcements during disruption.

The problem is not one of training. The problem is that like all current ToCs when thing go wrong they leave their front line staff high and dry, and make no effort to pass any useful informtion or support onto them.

First made a lot of their policy of giving staff blackberrys so they have access to information in cases like this, but they seem to have neglected the actual information itself.

Perhaps the solution would be to helicopter the ToCs general manager onto the train so he can see how it feels to put in the position that they routinely puts their staff in.
 

GadgetMan

Member
Joined
9 Jan 2012
Messages
892
I cannot agree with this. In my experience train crew try to do their best by passengers despite a lack of adequate support from their line managers.

The reason they don't make annoucements is because they are not given any useful informtion to pass on.

I have witnessed train staff using personal mobiles to call the crew of another train to see if they knew anything useful. Quite simply they should never have to do that, their line manger should be ensuring they have proivided with the information they need to care for their passengers.



The problem is not one of training. The problem is that like all current ToCs when thing go wrong they leave their front line staff high and dry, and make no effort to pass any useful informtion or support onto them.

First made a lot of their policy of giving staff blackberrys so they have access to information in cases like this, but they seem to have neglected the actual information itself.

Perhaps the solution would be to helicopter the ToCs general manager onto the train so he can see how it feels to put in the position that they routinely puts their staff in.

So there is a technical fault with that particular train yet the onboard staff don't know what the problem is?
 

MattRobinson

Member
Joined
16 Apr 2012
Messages
276
Location
Wakefield
Without wanting to be cynical, perhaps the journalist has somewhat inflated the scale of this problem to justify being paid to write said article? Yes, the railway might have got it a little wrong, but you can't write an article every time your train is delayed...
 

michael769

Established Member
Joined
9 Oct 2005
Messages
2,006
But how do they know how long the train will be stuck? Or what the ToC is doing to get help to the train?

In such a situation the passengers primary desire is to know how long they are going to be held, and their secondary desire is to be given some indication of what current progress is being made to extricate them. Telling the the train has failed is kind of pointless, given they will have already worked that out.

Sadly ToCs seem to think is is adequate to give passengers vague and unhelpful "information", for example "this is due to a train failure" or "an incident under investigation. That is not information, that is fobbing them off.
 

Goatboy

Established Member
Joined
23 Jun 2011
Messages
2,274
They are compensated. It's in their contract.

Exactly. So not sure what the problem is? He seemed to be suggesting they should get nothing because 'hey, stuff happens'. The Delay Repay arrangements are generous and adaquete.

'Stuff' does happen. And when it happens to you in the course of running a business, you must placate the customers as well as fixing the problem.
 

transmanche

Established Member
Joined
27 Feb 2011
Messages
6,017
The reason they don't make annoucements is because they are not given any useful informtion to pass on.
In which case it's probably better to make an announcement saying so - at least that would help reduce any animosity towards the on-board staff, by creating a 'we're all in it together' atmosphere.
 

Drsatan

Established Member
Joined
24 Aug 2009
Messages
1,832
Location
Land of the Sprinters
From reading the article it's obvious there's a discrepancy between what a TOC can provide during periods of disruption and what a passenger can expect.

The solution was close at hand: to borrow a locomotive from the Old Oak Common depot just three miles away and hook it up to the afflicted train

In BR days the foreman at Old Oak Common would have been informed about a broken down train on the down fast, and a driver on a 'spare' turn would have been told to drive a 47 to the stricken HST, use the emergency towbar to couple onto the HST, and then haul the train to either its destination or a station where the train could be terminated.

Unfortunately, today that doesn't seem to be possible. I can imagine using a 57 stabled at OOC (or what remains of it) to haul the HST was discussed but I doubt there were any drivers trained on 57s at the depot that evening.
 

route:oxford

Established Member
Joined
1 Nov 2008
Messages
4,949
It's too easy to imagine the feelings of helplessness and utter hopelessness felt by the passengers in this situation, and it's far from being an isolated incident.

I've never felt helplessness or utter hopelessness as a consequence of a delay - but perhaps I don't have a weak constitution.

As to "Never apologise"...

You should only promise to do something you can be absolutely confident of undertaking to a customer's satisfaction.

And

You should only apologise for an event that you can genuinely apologise for...

So if's Network Rail issue, the FGW (or any other operator) should announce "Network Rail have asked us to convey their apologies for the delay this evening."

Any other apology would be fraudulent and worthless.
 

transmanche

Established Member
Joined
27 Feb 2011
Messages
6,017
You should only apologise for an event that you can genuinely apologise for...

So if's Network Rail issue, the FGW (or any other operator) should announce "Network Rail have asked us to convey their apologies for the delay this evening."

Any other apology would be fraudulent and worthless.
You can say you're sorry to show empathy - even if it's not your fault.
 

306024

Established Member
Joined
23 Jan 2013
Messages
2,983
Location
East Anglia
In which case it's probably better to make an announcement saying so - at least that would help reduce any animosity towards the on-board staff, by creating a 'we're all in it together' atmosphere.

Too true. Always say something, nothing worse than silence.

Now to add a bit of balance, my experience from this morning. 09.06 Paddington - Plymouth bang on time until Westbury avoiding line, when the late running 08.18 Paddington to Exeter which calls at Westbury is allowed out ahead of us some 20" late, bringing us to a dead stand. Net result is a 15 minute delay to our train when perhaps we should have been given priority? Conductor apologises for delay, explains we are following a late running preceding service. Not a lot more he could say really.
 

RPM

Established Member
Joined
24 Sep 2009
Messages
1,386
Location
Buckinghamshire
Information provision during disruption has long been the Achilles heel of the railway. I think most TOCs are actually very aware that it is a problem, but there is no easy solution.
From my own experience of being in charge of a broken down DOO train, the first ten to fifteen minutes are relatively easy. You announce what has happened and what is being done to rectify it. Then you start running into problems because everything on the railway takes a long, long to organise and carry out. You can make holding announcements, something like "once again ladies & gentlemen, I apologise for the ongoing delay to this service. There is a problem with one of the train's safety systems that is preventing me from releasing the brakes. I am waiting for a member of technical staff to attend to the fault but at the moment I don't have an idea of his/her E.T.A."
That works for a few goes but there are only so many times you can make that sort of announcement before it starts wearing very thin. The problem is that the most important bit of information that passengers need is "how long are we going to be delayed?" but this is normally the one thing that we can't tell them. It is the classic 'how long is a piece of string scenario'.
This frustration tends to cause passengers to claim (falsely) that they were given no information.
 

Ferret

Established Member
Joined
22 Jan 2009
Messages
4,105
Hmmm, not long ago, I was on a train delayed for a good 45 minutes, perhaps a tad more. Being a conscientious Guard, I made several announcements, even sometimes saying that there had been no further update from the signaller just yet, but that we were going to get in touch with him shortly. I also walked through the train twice, making the usual apologies. I was therefore somewhat incredulous to be accused of not making any announcementa and not telling people what was going on by one disgruntled woman. Experiences like that naturally lead me to take any such article written in the press with a pinch of salt. Of course, such an article might be completely true, but the sensible people among you will understand my cynicism....
 

A-driver

Established Member
Joined
9 May 2011
Messages
4,482
Hmmm, not long ago, I was on a train delayed for a good 45 minutes, perhaps a tad more. Being a conscientious Guard, I made several announcements, even sometimes saying that there had been no further update from the signaller just yet, but that we were going to get in touch with him shortly. I also walked through the train twice, making the usual apologies. I was therefore somewhat incredulous to be accused of not making any announcementa and not telling people what was going on by one disgruntled woman. Experiences like that naturally lead me to take any such article written in the press with a pinch of salt. Of course, such an article might be completely true, but the sensible people among you will understand my cynicism....

That isn't a million miles away from the issues with the FCC train south of Kentish town.

The trains pa stopped when it lost power (obviously) so after the initial pa on battery power the driver passed through the train personally making a manual announcment to each coach. He got so much abuse (ok people are frustrated but if you spoke to airline cabin crew or a police officer like people spoke to this driver you would be arrested for it) that he decided against making any further passes through the train.

It also dosnt help that the public have no faith in or respect for rail staff. Again at Kentish town the fitter passed through closing all the egressed doors telling people they needed to be shut to move the train. No one listened to him and opened the doors again which is what led to the safety incident which the RAIB got involved in.

People on here are dead right that the one thing people want to know when stuck on a train is 'how long' and we have no answer for that. I try my best to tell people what has happened and more importantly what needs to happen to get us moving but I will never even guess a time.

Before people start accusing me of this, I'm not defending no communication and blaming passengers at all, what I saying though is that nowadays as soon as there is disruption the public over react and it gets blown out of all proportion and I'm not sure how much of this press article I believe.

As for his quote about getting a rescue loco out of the depot...does he honestly think that control never considered that as an option?!
 

IanD

Established Member
Joined
18 Sep 2011
Messages
2,662
Location
Newport Pagnell
Telling the the train has failed is kind of pointless, given they will have already worked that out.

A train could stop unexpectedly for any number of reasons (signalling failure, person under your train, person under another train, a train ahead's failed, cows on the line, security scare etc.., etc..) so announcing it's your train that's failed is passing on useful info.
 

island

Veteran Member
Joined
30 Dec 2010
Messages
11,715
Location
0036
Sadly ToCs seem to think is is adequate to give passengers vague and unhelpful "information", for example "this is due to a train failure" or "an incident under investigation. That is not information, that is fobbing them off.

But what if they don't know?
 

A-driver

Established Member
Joined
9 May 2011
Messages
4,482
Presumably somebody knows. A train doesn't sit for an hour doing nothing without a single person knowing why.

It does. If there is a fault they will go through the motions of diagnosing it. If its not a common problem then it will certainly take time to diagnose and fix.

I have known one particular train to sit in the middle if nowhere for 4 hours with 2 fitters, a RSI, a driver and driver manager pulling it apart before they found out what the problem was.
 

tsr

Established Member
Joined
15 Nov 2011
Messages
7,393
Location
Between the parallel lines
Things that do annoy me are indeed reasons like "this is due to emergency services dealing with an incident", "a problem under investigation", or, as I have heard more than once, "an incident". Likewise "congestion".

All of these sound vague and fob the passengers off. After a set period of time, Control should be able to advise a suitable but believable and honest version of events to be relayed. Passengers would rather hear about "a person on the line has been injured by a train", "a fire involving a cable", "an investigation into the procedure used when the previous train was dispatched", "a queue of trains because of a signal's component failing", "a brake which can't be released", or whatever.

And if it's not known? Announce it - as discussed above. Phrase it differently. Say that "a more senior manager is trying to find the problem with the train's systems", or "the engineer on the track will be running through their troubleshooting checks as I speak".

None of these breach confidentiality relating to any specific person, or allege any wrongdoing, and don't involve timeframes.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Top