What's going on with TOC attitudes?

Discussion in 'UK Railway Discussion' started by alexl92, 20 May 2015.

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  1. alexl92

    alexl92 Established Member

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    The pillar of *ahem* quality journalism Metro are carrying the story today about Southern fining passengers for standing in first class when there's no more room, and a few days ago had the one about the commuter getting a 'F*** Southern' tattoo.

    Complaints about Northern's attitude to their passengers are commonplace on here, and recently I've seen FTPE described as 'probably the worst in the country'.

    These aren't isolated cases and at risk of making a sweeping generalisation, it seems that aside from the odd brilliant social media team member, TOCs attitudes towards their customers is increasingly snobbish and ignorant.

    I know it's nothing new but why has it descended to this level? I'm too young to remember BR so this isn't one of those posts that's simply bashing privatisation. But whilst money has to be made, in my view this should not be at the expense of common sense and decency and customer service.

    As an example, I'd say that in the Southern situation, assuming it is as reported, the sensible course of action would be to declassify first class (which Southern have stated is the guard's discression) rather than start handing out fines left, right and centre.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. ChathillMan

    ChathillMan Member

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    Its not the TOCs attitudes, its the staff they employ to manage twitter.

    I imagine senior management would not sarcastic or demeaning responses to customers.

    Having said that, being sat at a desk for 8 + hours responding to the same thing every day must grate eventually
     
  3. Bishopstone

    Bishopstone Member

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    There are other threads running which deal with (or have strayed into) the 'should TOCs declassify First when Standard is a bit busy?' debate. There's probably not much more to be usefully added at this time.

    I will just state my view that there are a few folk on Twitter baiting and trolling Southern quite aggressively at the moment. There is a very loud complainer from East Grinstead, who has built-up something of a fan club, pushing for automatic declassification whenever there is standing in Standard. I have a suspicion a few individuals may be engineering confrontations in First Class, with the hope of generating negative press attention for Southern.
     
  4. Fincra5

    Fincra5 Established Member

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    The commuter with a Tattoo is hilarious, what an idiot. But anyways, yes there is the option to declassify 1st Class. However this has to officially be run by the Guard to Control.

    On that the company has to pay 1st Class passengers compensation for their seating be declassified.

    Far too many passengers will ask you the second they haven't got a seat (even if 1st is full of 1st Class passengers too). Some just seem to take the p*ss. Now if you really want a seat THAT badly pay the 1st Class. I don't like 1st Class, would be far simpler without but the demand is there.
     
  5. redbutton

    redbutton Member

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    I think it has to do with DOO services patrolled by RPIs as opposed to services with a guard.

    If it were a guard, s/he would probably allow people to stand without actually declassifying the seating, but a RPI would just PF everyone because that's what they get paid to do.

    It would seem that they're trained not to give anyone the benefit of the doubt, because that's what the appeals process is for. I've heard them say as much to people whilst PFing them at the barriers; also it's a common theme in the disputes section on this forum. "Just give me your name and address, don't worry the company will sort it out later..."
     
  6. Blindtraveler

    Blindtraveler Established Member

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    **Sweeping Generalisation Alert** TPE
    Most Definately Are*in my opinion the worst in terms of how they treat pax and most definately when it comes to how they deal with complaints which in my experience has been quite frankly rubbish!
     
  7. Starmill

    Starmill Established Member

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    I'm not sure I have any evidence to form a true company-by-company opinion. Northern's trains are some of the worst maintained. CrossCountry, First Great Western and TPE are the worst in their attitute to Off-Peak fares and Virgin Trains the worst with the Anytime fares. I've been spoken to terribly by staff of many colours, such that even though I often meet friendly and chatty staff there's always a niggling fear that I might get spoken to badly or provoked by someone I've never met before who wears a railway uniform. There's certainly an element of institutional arrogance about the contemporary railway, interspersed with excellent bits of thinking yes, but too often the passenger is taken for granted.
     
  8. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    "Institutional arrogance" as a term fits TPE - from top to bottom. It started with them referring to their third-rate, overcrowded regional express service as "InterCity". It is inter-city, but it is definitely *not* InterCity.
     
  9. Clip

    Clip Established Member

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    Doesn't that say more about the passenger than the TOC though?

    You really should know this but a large amount of time and problems for a lot fo TOCs are actually out of their hands yet they take the flack for it.

    What would you like them to do in say this scenario(and this is a real one not some hypothetical one)

    There is a train approaching a station going into big city somewhere. It is a very busy train. There are many people on the platform that want said train and don't want to wait 5 minutes for the next one. So they all try and crowd on - before people have got off - and they all want to be near the front to be quicker to the barriers. All this commotion means the train misses its right time departure by 1 or 2 minutes. This means that the train that was 5 mins behind is now 7 possibly 8 as it will have stopped at a signal so have to start again. Then all the trains behind that start backing up leading to further delays.


    How would you solve that problem?

    If you can then let us know and Ill pass it on and then set another problem dealing with the infrastructure falling down so you can solve that one too.

    Now on the CS side - because of all these problems we now have to deal with 10x more complaints about our late services and unclean trains - even when the fact they have litter strewn about them by the very passengers that ride on them. This does mean that it takes us longer and longer to reply and deal with complaints and unfortunately means some do indeed get lost in the melee in the offices - it could be better but how many CS people should we employ to do this?


    Ive said many times on here that most of us could do better and we really could and I could go on but I wont because it falls on mainly deaf ears on here to some people.


    But get a frontline job on the railway if you have the answers, come and help us as we need bright people who know the ins and outs of our railway and how it works. Im sure my colleagues from other TOCs who are users on here would like the input and assistance too.
     
  10. pitdiver

    pitdiver Member

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    Further to the above point I have often wondered how many people on this forum have actually worked on a Railway. Admittedly I worked for London Underground but I wuld suspect many of the issues raised on this Forum relating to National Rail could apply to LUL as well. Come on folks tell us Railway People and ex Railway People how YOU would fix things
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 22 May 2015
  11. Arctic Troll

    Arctic Troll Established Member

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    I'd start by putting in adequate recovery time- not just on the train services themselves, but on crew rosters too. London Midland are particularly bad at this: Clip's hypothetical crew arrive 10 minutes late at Euston, but because LM have cut crew turnaround times to the absolute minimum that means their next train also leaves 10 minutes late, which turns into 15 minutes, then 20, then a cancellation as "no train crew are available".
     
  12. PaxVobiscum

    PaxVobiscum Established Member

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    I propose a Human Responsibilities movement. (Actually, it's not my idea - it's at least a couple of thousand years old).
     
  13. Clip

    Clip Established Member

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    This would be good but you know that a lot of the time the drivers would be just sat spare and there would be uproar in the media and on here about paying staff to do nothing so we cant win.
     
  14. NSEFAN

    NSEFAN Established Member

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    To an extent what the press say is just wibble and should be treated as such. The more important aspect is the effect on the economy of an unreliable train service. If having a little more slack is what's needed to assist with service recovery and can things running then it seems like a good investment to me.

    Of course the "correct" thing to do is to remove the initial cause of the delays, which seems to be NR more often than not. That said, NR is already building an astronomically huge debt so throwing more money at it is probably not going to be popular. In times of disruption, if it's a NR problem then it's not the TOC's job to deal with it. This, combined with the relentless drive for cost reduction, is probably why we have no slack in drivers, guards, etc.

    Welcome to the MDTR! :D
     
  15. SPADTrap

    SPADTrap Established Member

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    Not believe every single thing read in the press? They can't print things that aren't true! <D :lol:
     
  16. Arctic Troll

    Arctic Troll Established Member

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    I don't think the media would notice or care if a TOC actually gave sufficient recovery time in a crew roster, rather than setting PNBs that start two minutes after arrival and end two minutes before departure time of the train.
     
  17. wellwhatitis

    wellwhatitis Member

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    I'll tell you what the biggest cause of tight diagraming like that is. Traincrew that are prepared to forfeit parts of their PNB for overtime pay to get away on time. Then when muggins here comes along and insists on the full PNB I am the exception. Result? Rostering think these problems rarely occur and the diagrams are fine as they are.
     
  18. redbutton

    redbutton Member

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    It's the same at Southern. There's a reason Go-Via is so profitable. Run everything to minimums and point the delay-attribution finger at NR when it breaks.

    Customer demand is mostly inelastic on commuter routes, so it's a win-win.
     
  19. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

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    it would notice if the number of trains had to be cut to facilitate the extra padding. Diagrams are as tight as possible to try and run as many trains as possible to meet demand.
     
  20. Arctic Troll

    Arctic Troll Established Member

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    No, staff rosters are that tight to try and employ as few drivers and guards as possible.
     
  21. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

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    agreed but they are also tight to help squeeze as much as possible out of almost maximum track capacity]

    EDIT - i was trying to be less cynical ;)
     
    Last edited: 21 May 2015
  22. Arctic Troll

    Arctic Troll Established Member

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    I'd be less cynical if the train diagrams were just as tight, but they're not: the 350s spend most of their time lounging in the Camden sunshine ;)
     
  23. sarahj

    sarahj Established Member

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    and thats the problem with a commuter rail service, you have to have all this nice kit for two busy periods of the day, plus you have to get the staff to and from these busy start points at the busiest time of the day. then to save money for all that stock thats only used for these times, you have to work the staff harder, or and perhaps have less staff, keeping turnarounds to the min and breaks to the min.

    And then when it all goes wrong state of national Tv about 'learning lessons'.

    But then the next diagrams come out, do it all again and cut out even more slack.
     
  24. sheff1

    sheff1 Established Member

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    Many moons ago spare drivers and guards were the norm (at larger sheds/depots at least). BR did get a bad press for many things, but I do not recall this issue being one of them.

    The real reason why 'spare' turns have been removed is, I believe, this
    and nothing to do with media uproar. Indeed, contemporary criticism is regularly focused on the failure to run extra services for big events or at peak holiday times, unlike years ago when such extras/reliefs could be manned by 'spare' crews.
     
  25. Flamingo

    Flamingo Established Member

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    Customer service is currently the king, with social media and forums like this giving people a platform on which to complain, and a way of finding like minded people to share that sense of victimhood with.

    Twenty, fifty, a hundred years ago, people were complaining about their commute and falling foul of the railway bylaws. I've seen copies of railway magazines from 1914 where passengers were writing in for advice about what to do because they had been charged by zealous ticket inspectors, and in the 70's, it was a running gag in Reggie Perrin.

    One persons complaint is another persons good customer service. If I hold the late train for the gang running down the platform, is this good customer service? Not if it means the passenger already on the train misses his last bus home from the train station. If I refuse to allow passengers to walk through First Class to be standing at the front door, is this bloody awful customer service? No, it is good customer service to the passenger in the wheelchair in the front of First Class who would have been crowded out by the dozen or so trailing past her while the platform staff were attempting to put a ramp down. Is it poor customer service to insist that somebody with a cello on a seat in a busy Sunday afternoon long-distance train moves it to the luggage space (and because they say it is too valuable and they will have to stay with it they stand up for the journey)? It's good customer service for one (or two!) of the ten or so passengers who is standing in that carriage who can now sit down for the next 90 minutes.

    However, in each of these real-life examples, people wrote, e-mailed, tweeted, or just resorted to old-fashioned name-calling or abuse because of what they perceived as poor customer service. The people who had received the good customer service, however, did not even realise they had received it.

    In my life experience (which I had thought was considerable until I started on the Railway, when I quickly realised, to coin a phrase "You ain't seen nuttin yet"), there are a huge number of people out there who do think that the world revolves around them, and whinge loud and long about it. The NHS is especially suffering from this at the moment, but the railway runs a close second. These people will also try to twist any situation to make themselves the victim - who remembers the wheelchair chap going to Guide Bridge a few years ago?

    A large part of this is that the large organisations are seen as "fair game", and they are constrained in what they can reply, and have an absolute terror of "Bad Publicity". They are swatting at flies trying to take on each complaint, and even when the millions of satisfied customers are taken into account, the noisy wheel is the one that gets the grease, so the comparative few complaining are the ones that get the attention.

    There will be a backlash at some stage, where companies will start saying to serial complainers "We're doing our best for everybody, if you don't like it don't use us".
     
    Last edited: 21 May 2015
  26. Bishopstone

    Bishopstone Member

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    The thing about complaints is that after reviewing nineteen which are trivial, vexatious or have their origin in the failure of the disgruntled customer to abide by the rules/contract/law etc, you pick up the twentieth...

    ...and think, 'Goodness, we've really let you down, here.'

    The noise created by social media serial whingers needs to be addressed, but producer interests - private or state sector - must never be allowed to close-ranks and get away with the indefensible.
     
  27. matt_world2004

    matt_world2004 Established Member

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    A lot of complaints about southern seem to be a resourcing issue. Trains are not long enough carriages are dirty train delayed because of insufficent crews. Guess what all of those can be solved by investment.there is nothing preventing a TOC owning its own rolling stock instead of leasing the bare minimum according to the franchise. There is nothing stopping them hiring more cleaners or hiring standby drivers placed at key points around the network. LUL have many bus companies in London also have standbys if southern bid to low for the franchise that is only one companies fault southerns.
     
  28. NSEFAN

    NSEFAN Established Member

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    The rail industry is set up to make it difficult for TOCs to own rolling stock outright, although there are some exceptions. Franchises are generally short compared to the lifetime of the trains and the DfT wants to ensure that stock can be easily transferred from one franchisee to the next with minimal hassle.

    To be honest the way the whole industry is configured means things only happen with DfT say so.
     
  29. Arctic Troll

    Arctic Troll Established Member

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    To an extent yes, but these trains could be used much more between the peaks, they're just not because money. That's why London Midland evening and weekend services are usually far more crowded than the commuter trains. The only time I struggle to get a seat is on a Saturday morning when a four-car rocks up.

    It's an hour from Euston to Northampton. There's no reason why the units couldn't stay in service and be back in time for tea.

    It's all about penny-pinching.

    I'd also agree with Flamingo. In my line of work it's the same; half my time is spent dealing with the whinges of people who have no concept of personal responsibility and seek to blame everyone else for their idiocy. And in my line of work "satisfaction" is still our key target, even where we could give half these people the moon on a stick and they'd complain it wasn't dipped in chocolate.
     
    Last edited: 21 May 2015
  30. Johngill100

    Johngill100 Member

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    A total case of damned if you do and damned if you don't
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    Indeed but if they did invest in trains on which the ROI would be beyond their franchise and others did then eventually if they were worth their salt they would win other franchises and take advantage of others investment in other TOC's new trains.

    Resulting in a step change in improvement of stock.
     
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