We Shouldn’t Stand For It!


The normal rules of business don’t apply to Britain’s train operators. I found out yesterday that neither do the rules of Einsteinian physics.

For the first time in my life, I was a commuter. I attended a radio conference in London that ran from 8:30 till 5:30. That meant that I had to keep normal office hours for the day and had to join the thousands of people that commute daily to the capital by train.

In every other business the customer who pays more, gets more and a business’s most loyal customers get treated better than the occasional users. For example, a frequent flier on an airline will be treated to air miles that give them free flights, upgrades and access to a lounge. Even if you’re not a loyal customer, if you buy the most expensive ticket, you get to sit in a big seat at the front and get first class service.

The opposite is true on Britain’s trains. If you travel at what the rail operator has decided is a “peak” time, you pay a lot more but you don’t get a better seat, in fact you probably won’t get a seat at all. The people who travel at this time do it to get to work every day, which makes them the rail company’s most loyal customers. They pay thousands of pounds every year for a season ticket. If you only occasionally travel by train and do it ‘off-peak’, you don’t have to stand, squashed up, cheek to jowl with hundreds of miserable strangers in a stinking hot train carriage. You might even get TWO seats to yourself and a table!

Yesterday, I caught the 07:51, Sardine Express to Kings Cross from Hitchin in Hertfordshire. I paid around twice as much as I normally pay for a return to London. I had to stand for the 32 minute journey, with hundreds of other people who’d paid for the most expensive ticket of the day. The accommodation my ticket provided was just inside the doorway, stood, sandwiched between a fat bloke carrying a fold-up bicycle and a tall skinny man who was pushed so close to me that I’m sure I could tell which side he dressed.

As the windows steamed up and the temperature inside the carriage began to rise, I noticed a sign that said, “Great Northern Trains, follow us on Twitter”. I did better than that, I tweeted them,

@GNRailUK Hitchin to Kings Cross. How come I pay twice as much for a peak ticket but don’t get a seat?”

And there was a reply,

@GNRailUK Peak services are exceptional busy Graham. Are you able to get an earlier train to maximise your chance of getting a seat? ^Tina”

That made me even more angry so I replied to Tina,

@GNRailUK It’s not my fault you didn’t put on long enough trains. How dare you blame ME. I paid for a seat, YOU failed to provide one!”

I didn’t hear from Tina after that.

Fancy asking “Are you able to get an earlier train?”, not NOW, I’m already on THIS ONE! Did I miss something? Was Tina suggesting that one of the platforms at Hitchin railway station is actually a portal into another dimension, where I can travel backwards in time?

It wouldn’t have done me much good, the train before this one, the 7:31, was CANCELLED!

Craic on!

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If you enjoyed this Craic, please click “like” and tweet a link. If you’d like to talk to me about it, call me on +44 1438 422106 between 6 and 9 weekday mornings (UK time) on BOB fm.

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