Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Calling all cattle: do you use Twyford?

An appeal, from some TV programme-makers, who want to investigate the cattle-truck-like conditions faced by commuters:
Do you use Twyford station during the morning rush hour, either as a resident, changing from Henley, or on the long haul from Oxford to Paddington, or any of the stations in-between?
If so, they, and I, want to hear from you.
If you'd like to be involved in making a point about the crushed conditions faced by the daily London commuter, please get in touch with either me (ihatefgw@yahoo.co.uk) or the programme's producer (rakhee.hindocha@northonetv.com) who can provide you with more details of what will be involved, when you get in touch.
Please join in, it's a really good opportunity to make your grievances heard, and you'll get to be on TV as well, as an added bonus.

Save Ashchurch train services

Look at this for a picturesque village church. Doesn't it look like the sort of place you might want to visit sometime?
This Gloucestershire village, near Tewkesbury, is served by the brilliantly named station "Ashchurch for Tewkesbury", once a railway centre of some importance, according to Wikipedia.
These days, its services are under threat, which is a shame. And that's where you come in.
Please help the lovely people of this countryside parish to keep their train services, by signing this petition. http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ashchurchtrains/
The deadline is the 22nd of November, so put your name down now.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Don't let the sun go down on me

My work leads me to research lots of interesting things. And today, I've been finding out about Seasonal Affective Disorder, and its non-clinical cousin, the "Winter Blues". Apparently up to half of us experience the blues in the winter months, manifesting as lethargy, overeating, sadness and anxiety. This is because we aren't getting the sunlight we need, and our bodies prepare to go into hibernation as a result. I've certainly been finding it harder to get out of bed over the past few days, and my need to eat cake has increased to a ridiculous extent.
All this is very well and good, but "So what?" I hear you cry.
Well, how's about this for an idea?
Why don't train companies give us a boost by offering lightboxes, either on the trains or in the stations? Bright light therapy helps 80% of people with S.A.D. and can also be effective for anyone who's feeling a bit down in the dark months. They could even hire them out for the journey, as any delays would mean a longer exposure, and a happier passenger as a result.
Making people happier the longer they spend on the train is about as win-win as it gets, and since there will always be delays, how about a range of things to make people feel better about them - from a simple cup of tea to a blast of extra-strong light?
Surely it's about time that FGW thought about employing me as a Great Ideas Manager?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

You can't sit down, not even if you pay me

My eyes and ears at Reading station (actually she's a whole person, but it would take too long to list every part) has complained to me of a worrying case of jobsworthiness, as follows:
She quite often pays on the train on the way home from Paddington for a first class upgrade, as when it's very busy, she feels it's worth the £13 extra just to have a nice sit down after a hard day. However, two days ago she asked the train manager if she could upgrade and he said no. She asked why, and he said she couldn't upgrade her ticket on the train, and should have done it beforehand.
However, how did she know whether or not she was going to get a seat until she got onto the train? And surely, anyone who's prepared to pay a few pounds to go and sit in a half-empty carriage and help ease the congestion in standard class should be welcomed?
My friend then questioned the train manager, saying she often upgraded her ticket on the train. His response was that the people who were upgrading her weren't doing their jobs properly, as it wasn't allowed.
Livid, my friend found that her only possible revenge was to stand defiantly in the first class carriage all the way back to Reading, and then ring me and complain about it.
Surely this train manager was wrong? Please can I have some guidance on this, as it seems unbelievable that on-train upgrades aren't allowed, when seats are quite clearly available.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Oh please can I keep it, please please please?

Well now then. There have been some fun and games as I tried to convert my season ticket from a Pangbourne one to a Windsor one, the upshot being that I currently have more than £2000 on one of my bank cards which First Great Western have accidentally credited to me.
And now they want it back, which is a terrible shame.
The real refund, once a manager from Slough was despatched to sort out the problem, was only a few hundred pounds, which was very disappointing.
How tempting it would be to go on a spending spree at FGW's expense, and consider it a payback for all the hours I've spent delayed on trains over the last couple of years.
Sadly, they know where I live, and I'm not really the hardened criminal type.
But god, it's tempting.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A sad day

Hello again
It was with great sadness earlier today that I stepped into the last first-class carriage in which I am properly entitled to sit down and make myself comfy.
Yes, the free first-class upgrade has expired, no more will a free flapjack and a cup of tea brighten up my trips to work. RIP upgrade, I will miss you a lot.
But, what other news?
Those of you who use Facebook may notice that anti-First Great Western groups are springing up there - it seems the anger is still running just as high as it was when I felt compelled to start this blog more than ten months ago. One has even named itself "I Hate First Great Western", but has no relation to this blog, though I hope its members will come and visit, and perhaps order a badge or two.
So, ten months on, are things any better at all? Well, I do feel that I have a better understanding of why bad things happen, but I must admit the customer service still doesn't seem to have improved much, what's your experience?
I'm about to try and take the major step of changing my season ticket, so that it runs from my new home in Windsor instead of from Pangbourne. I imagine this will not go off without a hitch, but we'll see.
There's still no news of when my meeting with the First Great Western people will take place. They're quite busy with the Ufton Nervet inquest at the moment, so fair enough, but it's been rather a long time since I asked. I hope to be able to bring you some answers to some hard questions in the next week or two.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Oh how very strange

Do, please, visit You Tube and have a look at this, if you're not feeling too sensitive:
How very strange some people are.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Tickets please!

Is it just me, or has today been a ticket-checking day? I was asked to show my ticket on two occasions this lunchtime, maybe it's just because I'm on a late shift.
I'm glad actually, because I hadn't seen a ticket inspector yet on the Windsor-Slough line, and having paid £30 for a month's season ticket to pootle backwards and forwards between the two, I was wondering if I should have bothered. But this lunchtime, several youngsters were given a severe dressing down for boarding the train without a ticket, and I breathed a sigh of relief that I am an generally a pretty honest person and always buy a ticket even if I think no-one's going to check.
Then, on my Slough-Paddington leg, I duly sat in first class, and the host came and asked me to show her my ticket. I had a moment of horror as I realised that my upgrade might have expired, but thankfully it's still good for another week, so phew, a free cup of tea and a nice empty carriage, thanks very much. I'll be sad to see that upgrade go, as I'm sure will all the others who've taken advantage of it. I must remember to ask FGW what the effect of the offer has been, and whether they might be considering another similar scheme in the future, I for one would be heartily in favour, not too surprisingly.
I do have one note of complaint today. Last night I shuffled up the stairs of the Hammersmith and City Line entrance to Paddington Station. As I'm not yet used to the timetable to Slough, I asked the person at the information desk whether the 1833 Oxford train on Platform 12 would be stopping at Slough. He said yes. I got on it. Then a lucky announcement moments later declared that the train would be stopping at Maidenhead, Twyford, Reading.... I got off again.
So, either the information man was mistaken, or lying. In either case, he's not a very good information man, and nearly sent me to the wrong destination. What's the use of an information man that gives out wrong information?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Merry Christmas, from First Great Western

Lee at the First Great Western Coffee Shop, where you can drop in and natter to your heart's content about the latest news on cancellations and delays, has pointed out to me that while FGW haven't yet officially released their December 2007 - May 2008 timetable, the draft is already available on the website, in fact, it's here. So, what do you think?
The news from Slough is that there are more fast services to and from Paddington, so yay, but the new morning ones all at around 6am, so boo, as fingers crossed, none of my shifts start that early at the moment.
The other good news is that the High Speed Trains with 515 seats per train will replace Adelantes with 282 seats per train from Dec 9th onwards, oh joy.
So, have a look and see what you think, will it be a Happy Christmas from FGW?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Friday night is fright night

Hello all
Proper news about the new December timetable and a request for your views on it coming soon, so watch this space.

But as the leaves begin to fall, and a chill begins to bother the back of my neck as I wait at the station, my thoughts turn inevitably to Halloween, and all things horrible.

A-ha, you think I'm going to say my thoughts turn to First Great Western, don't you? Well, no, in fact, I'm talking once again about the horror of passengers behaving badly.

My increasingly more frequent chats with FGW employees has uncovered the fact that, while we have good reason to be frustrated, we may sometimes not behave in a manner becoming upstanding commuter-types.

One employee reports that he has been spat at, and I myself have observed the pack-like instincts of the drunken commuter faced with a cancelled service late at night, something which resembles the behaviour and sound of hyenas. Our friend the Insider has also reported that staff are unwilling to say which platform a train is expected to arrive at because there are some travellers who do not care who they push and shove in order to be first on the train and first to a seat.

Now, we all know the reason for our frustrations - delays and cancellations. Nothing new there.

But, we should expect to be judged by the way we behave, and if, as I have heard, train managers sometimes decide not to come out of their rooms at all during some services, then that's a worry.

On a lighter note, I'd like to ask for some views on visual protests. The badges provided by this blog are clearly a marvellous opportunity to make our feelings known. But they're very small, and staff usually don't see them at all.

So, should I happen to be organising some kind of visual event (let's just say for the purposes of argument that I might be, but I might not) what should it be - flags, t-shirts, hats?

I'm thinking of something along the lines of the Flash Mob trend, which started a few years ago, and involves lots of people turning up to the same place at a time agreed at the last minute, all demonstrating, or acting in a certain way, then going away again. Not very well explained, but here's a website which might help: http://www.geocities.com/londonmobs/.

I'd like to something amusing, very visual and which will give the message that travelling by FGW is a real pain in the bum - perhaps we could all wear giant prosthetic bums?
As you can see, I do really need your help, so, since I know you all have plenty of time staring into space, or the next person's neck, on the way home, get your thinking caps on and come up with some ideas.