My fury at First Great Western’s inability even to be honest (one does not expect competence) as I eventually pulled out of Oxford Station on Tuesday (see Incompetence or Dishonesty at FGW) made me determined to take up their invitation to Meet the Managers on the way back.
Unlike at the ticket office, there was no great queue to meet the drone who had been delegated to field the complaints, and I stood behind a couple who were complaining about the removal of the Travel Centre which, they said, they had often used and much missed (see FGW closes Oxford Travel Centre) .
The drone’s reply was that the removal of the ticket centre had given much more space at the station. That this is untrue is almost irrelevant. More space may well now be needed for us all to queue in, but the main reason we now have to queue is that the removal of the Travel Centre means that the people with complicated requirements now clutter up the ticket windows, getting in the way of those who just want to buy a ticket – the new ticket machines seem always to be out of order, not accepting credit cards today, or not selling the cheap fares in the hope that we will be conned into buying the full fares.
They are an interesting type these privatised officials running what ought to be public services – no, I don’t mean interesting-entertaining, I mean interesting as a sociological class of our time. You take a typical local government type – dull, thick, unhelpful, plodding, lacking any sense of public service – and graft onto him the commercial characteristics of an estate agent or extended warranty salesman. You get the worst of all worlds – a quasi-public official controlling a monopoly service with a mission to part the public from its money. He gets all the corrupting power to foul up peoples’ lives which is what public service means under Gordon Brown, with an overlay of the dishonest commercial chicanery which defines New Labour and its era.
Hearing this ghastly little man give the official non-answer to the serious (and widely-held) concern of the “customers” in front of me, I realised I would be wasting my time speaking to him about. Worse than that, how could I resist punching him? You don’t punch the serfs who work in the front line, because they are just doing their job but, confronted by someone who actually had some responsibility for the mess, the temptation to pass on my views in physical form might be too great.
I unclenched my fists and moved away.