Now, I'm going to have to take a deep breath before I start this post, because I'm so annoyed that I might not explain it well. You may remember that earlier this month, my friend and I were abandoned by the side of the road in the middle of the night, as the replacement bus service which was due to take us home never arrived. Having finally found a taxi, we spent £12.00 getting home. So, the next day, I wrote a letter of complaint to First Great Western, asking for a refund of that same £12.00. I have now received a reply. I shall print a part of it here:
"I regret that First Great Western is not able to accept liability for any loss (including consequential loss) caused by the delay or cancellation of any train, by any missed connection or by the closure of the railway. This is explained in the National Rail Conditions of Carriage. I therefore cannot agree to your claim for the £12 taxi fare incurred as a result of the disruption to your journey".
So, what they're saying, if I understand correctly, is that First Great Western is under no obligation to provide a rail service which works properly, and the three and a half thousand pounds a year I pay to use this service guarantees me nothing at all. The company can cancel my trains, leave me abandoned in the middle of the night, or CLOSE THE WHOLE RAILWAY, and it doesn't have to pay me a penny of compensation if it doesn't feel like it.
But wait, there's more, and bear in mind that both my friend and I are unfortunate enough to be season ticket holders:
"As a gesture of goodwill on this occasion, however, I am pleased to enclose a Rail Travel Voucher for £24.00, which I do hope you find useful...I do hope future journeys with First Great Western are more enjoyable".
Ah, a gesture of goodwill. That's nice isn't it? Rail Travel Vouchers. You might as well have sent me Mars Dollars - since having money for travel is apparently no guarantee that the train will actually take you to your destination, be on time or in fact, arrive at all.
Except, wait a minute. A call to First Great Western has revealed that I can use these travel vouchers as a discount off my season ticket when I come to renew it.
So, how much work do you think I'll have to put in to get them to send me £3,500 of "goodwill" travel vouchers over the next nine months? It's definitely worth the cost of a few stamps and a few strongly worded letters, don't you think?