Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Can't help myself...

I'm gone again for the next several weeks after a few days of using our wonderful transport system again. Man I will so not miss it!

Monday I get there in time for the 17:38, it's showing on the entrance board so all is good. I get to the platform and the monitors are showing 17:49... uh oh! A couple of minutes later an SMS comes through confirming that the 17:38 is cancelled. I consider the alternatives... go outside and get a taxi? Nope, takes too long and is too expensive. Go jump on a tram? Nope, takes too long and too crowded then too far to walk at the other end. Go to the pub, get magotted and wait a while? Nope, would not be popular at home! Curse Connex management and stand there gnashing teeth for the next 10-15 minutes as we always do? Yep!

So the platform fills up and we wait. 17:49 passes and we wait, now the platform is pretty full. So do you reckon these doughbrains in charge might want to make some extra effort to keep us informed, as they've already cancelled one train and the second one has not arrived by its departure time? Well if they had any notion at all about customer service they might, but not these cretins.

Needless to say that when we depart around five minutes late the train is bursting at the seams. Not surprising when you have two complete trainloads jammed in, plus around half of the people expecting to get on the 18:01. Of course it's perfectly safe and it's not too bad really and I'm just a whinger...

Next morning I'm just thinking about breakfast and the dreaded SMS alert comes through, the 07:14 is cancelled. Do I skip breakfast and race through the shower or just go in late? I've got so much on that I can't do that, so I do the hurry up thing and manage to get there in time for the 06:59, having had no brekky and not made any sangers... I really hate you Connex!

Funnily enough what really prompted me to make a post is to draw attention to a comment made on my previous post. Have a look at the third comment. If you ever had any doubts about how deeply rooted the problems are, here's your confirmation. "Bernard", thanks for giving us such a great insight into why Connex is such a mess. I can't say that there's anything there that surprises me, but it helps considerably to know that our suspicions are confirmed and that there are guys like you working from the inside to try to improve things for all concerned.

It's always seemed like the biggest single problem within Connex is the "but we've always done it this way" approach. If you ever get involved with the gunzels at that railpage fan site, most of them seem to be entrenched in the mentality that nothing can be done to improve the system. Rather than recognising that peak hour commuters are their raison d'ĂȘtre they see them as a hindrance to playing with their 1:1 scale train sets.

I've had an email exchange or two with various people inside the Connex hierarchy and invariably we just hit a brick wall at the suggestion of making change. Andrew Cassidy opted to respond to my last attempt and I passed on some fairly simple suggestions for improving customer service by keeping people informed on where their trains were, since obviously Metrol has to know at all times where the trains are. His response was that they're not in the same location so it's too hard. Clearly if they're not up to using such modern inventions as telephony we have a long way to go!

The point is that he and his colleagues are just too entrenched in doing things the way they've always done them. Even relatively simple changes are just too hard. The more far-reaching, fundamental changes that are required to actually fix the underlying issues are never going to happen. I think "Bernard" has pretty much confirmed this. Me, I'm not really keen on being away for the next few weeks, but I can forget the Connex shambles for a while at least.