It was (lack of) service as usual on First Great Western on the day after an unprecedented piece of good time-keeping. If FGW paid as much attention to providing a service as they do protecting their revenue, we might be happier to contribute to their profits.
Something quite outside my experience occurred last week. My First Great Western train into London and the one which brought me out both ran to time.
This is like those fabled happenings which one hears of but never quite believes – Gordon Brown is not always unpleasant to everyone he meets; Ed Balls can let a day go by without either launching an “initiative” or filing an expenses claim; there is a highways officer at Oxfordshire County Council with an IQ in double figures; a Phoenix has been seen in Oxford. None of these seems in the least plausible, but if FGW can run two trains on time in one day then anything is possible.
They made up for it the following day when my Oxford-bound train ran slowly from Didcot to just outside Oxford, and then waited for ages by the cemetery before drawing in to the station. The Customer Relations Manager or whatever they call Guards these days, was duly apologetic, albeit in that formulaic and uninformative way which tends more to increase than to assuage the anger of those who have been inconvenienced.
When we eventually reached the concourse, there was a further delay whilst we all queued through the ticket barriers – you would think that they would waive that requirement when they have already held us up.
One of the staff lounging about by the barriers had Revenue Protection Officer on a badge on his tit. I gestured towards it and said I thought that we could do with some Customer Protection Officers. He stared back silently with stupid, expressionless, piggy eyes, presumably believing, like his masters, that the protection of revenue is more important that the provision of a proper service. His dull incomprehension may have been just that – for some reason, it is not a qualification for this job that applicants can speak English.
A notice informed me that there had been a Meet the Managers opportunity earlier in the evening. One of my recurring and most pleasurable dreams involves me kicking just such a person repeatedly in the head, one kick for every hour of my life wasted because of the useless incompetence of railway managers, an entire football league’s worth of kicks. It was probably as well that the managers had pushed off home by the time my train eventually arrived.