I use trains a lot, mostly between Hull and London. I still get an almost childlike adrenalin rush every time the train pulls out of Paragon Station in Hull; for some reason, it always brings much greater expectations than the start of a car journey. Except for last week. The Hull Train service I was booked to travel on didn’t go anywhere. The new Adelante train the company recently acquired apparently had dodgy brakes which meant a trip to Doncaster on the Northern Trains service to pick up the National Express service to King’s Cross. This was irritating, particularly having to drag all the training stuff I had with me from one train to another, but these things happen. The very helpful Hull Trains “customer service assistant” travelled with us to Doncaster and advised that our tickets would be valid on either the 14:03 or 14:15 National Express services to London. At Doncaster, the 14:03 arrived on time. I dragged my stuff into the quiet coach, sat down only to be greeted by a very officious announcer saying that “Hull Trains tickets are NOT valid on this train. Arrangements have been made for Hull Trains customers to travel on the 14:15 train”. What was the difference I wondered? There were plenty of seats on the train; it was going to London anyway, why did it matter? The less than helpful officious guard enlightened me. “About £100 difference” he said. He also informed me how grateful I should be that “as a gesture of goodwill”, National Express were letting us use their trains”. I grumbled something about rail fiefdoms and isn’t it supposed to be a national rail network which fell on deaf ears as I dragged my stuff off the train. As the 14:15 arrived and welcomed me aboard, it did occur to me that a customer service opportunity had been lost. So in the interests of good customer service, I suggest the following script for National Express next time they pick up stranded passengers:
“We at National Express would like to welcome Hull Trains customers and apologise on their behalf for the delays and inconvenience you have experienced. At National Express, we are pleased to service your travel needs this afternoon and hope you will travel with us again in the future”.
I blame Thatcher of course (except wasn’t it John Major that carved it all up?). What do you think?