Tuesday, November 06, 2007

We are not amused, but not so angry

Well, it's been nearly a year since I started the blog, and as the long winter nights start to draw in, I have to say I'm a lot less angry than I was back in January.
And I think there are three reasons for this.
1) Moving house - I can highly recommend living nearer your place of work. It still takes me a fair old while to get to the office, but the delays just aren't as severe as when you have to travel out into the wilderness beyond Reading. Of course, I realise this is not a solution for most people, but it's certainly made a difference to me. And, is it just me or are things slightly better in terms of delays these days? I think they are, at least up my neck of the woods anyway.
2) Getting the full picture - My gratitude to those members of FGW staff who have made such an effort to explain to us why the trains are late, overcrowded and cancelled. Two have even set up their own blogs for the purpose, which is marvellous. It's so much easier to cope with delays if you understand why they happen, even if you don't have much sympathy at the time.
3) Having someone to talk to - Thanks to everyone who takes part in this blog on a regular basis. I find that it's very hard to explain to a non-commuter how awful things are sometimes - people either assume I'm a scary aggressive person, for wanting to give out badges with the word "hate" on them, or just switch off once I start relaying my morning commute to them, blow by blow. It's good to share, even if we're only sharing the need to have a good whinge.
But, on the flip side of the coin, there are things I still don't understand, and which still make me unhappy. And these are they:
1) Why are the train managers given stupid rules to follow that don't make sense?
- Not allowing season-ticket holders to sit in First Class if standard class is full, even though the Conditions of Carriage say you're allowed to ask
- Not allowing standard class ticket holders to upgrade to First Class on the train, even when they're offering you money up front and the rest of the train is full
2) Overcrowding
- It's still not okay to pay a large sum of money to be squished up to your neighbour's armpit on a regular basis, and no-one's come up with a really good explanation of where all the carriages went and why. It's something to do with money and the department of transport, but to be honest, isn't providing the maximum number of seats possible on each rush-hour service something that should be a priority?
3) Customer Service
- Why does the complaints department always try to fob you off with a standard letter, no matter what your complaint? It's insulting and makes us angry. No-one likes complaining, and certainly no-one likes complaining twice, or three times...
- Things seem very unclear. I've discovered that season ticket holders can reserve seats, although I'm not sure if they're supposed to. And I only found out about the off-peak upgrade from someone else with a season ticket, it seems that passengers could do with a bit of the website that would tell us about the reasons for delays, any offers, and other useful information. I'm sure it's all there on the website somewhere, but it's not the easiest to get around.
I shall be investigating, and see if I can find some answers...


Lord Hutton said...

You can rest assured they are still cancelling trains without notice down west. Only Friday, I was at Taunton when the 1338 Taunton-Cheltenham was cancelled without notice at 1332. Someone knew that wasnt going to turn up! And no alternative or advice offered.
And thanks for the badges: being subtly left on trains.

Anonymous said...

The FGW website is a triumph of style over substance. It is all very flashy but it is not easy to find answers to straightforward things like:
1, which is the ealiest train from London that I can use a saver on?
2, what has happened to the Forward programme?
3, Are there engineering works this weekend?
4, How late does my train need to be before I can claim compensation?

The answers might be their somewhere, but is is not as straightforward as for example the website of Chiltern which is superficially less impressive and a lot smaller but is actually easier to use.



Anonymous said...

Thank you to the lady who runs this blog.

I havent agreed very much with your comments on this site, and I still think the word 'hate' can be very offensive, but your last piece about things getting a little better but still a long way to go, tells me that you can be impartial, unlike many who post comments on here.

I hope things continue to implove for us.

Insider said...

Good to see things are more positive. I see that you still have some questions though, so I've answered them here

Be sure to read it all, ther's some useful info

Ruth said...

Well, I am still fairly pissed with FGW. last night I left Paddington at 10.45pm. plenty of time to get the bus home from Reading station. but no, an undisclosed "Security Alert" at Reading meant over an hour sat stationary at various points between slough and Reading before being dumped at Tilehurst with promises of a courtesy bus back to Reading. Of course, this did not exist and we were left with noone from FGW anywhere about, no bus and a general melee around any taxi that had twigged. What fun! Not. and absolutely NO explanation whatsoever from FGW.

Anonymous said...

Just to address some of your concerns about 1st Class:

To explain:

1: It is at the discression of the Train Manager whether to "declassify" 1st class. If the TM decides to do so, then certain ammenities that the 1st class passengers have paid for, like an at-seat refreshment trolly, will have to be withdrawn. As this is something that the 1st class passengers HAVE paid for, it is up to the TM's discression (as, if the re is no seat, then passengers without seat reservations have the option of waiting for the next train). Allowing for the fact that about 1/3 of the train boards or leaves at Reading, a 25 minute journey (on the vast majority of trains, for the nit-pickers), then most TM's will not withdraw a facility from the majority of long-distance travelers just to appease the short-distance commuters.

2: Season tickets are discounted tickets. The price differential between the DISCOUNTED season ticket price and the cost of upgrading to a first class ticket on the relevant train has to be worked out in the ticket office, as theon-train ticket machines are not able to access the on-line details for that individual ticket. This is the only option to ensure all passengers are paying the same price. If you were being charged more to upgrade a season ticket than the 1st class ticket-holding passenger next to you, you would be whinging loud and long.

Anonymous said...

Could someone post a link to where one can reserve a seat on FGW as I've just spent the 1 hour looking for it on the website.