An Awfully Banal Adventure – I See No Portillo

Standing on the last off-peak train, cunningly disguised as peak due to the nose to hairline to toe to elbow to toe again proximity of the humans aboard, I made a rough headcount of my carriage. Somewhere between 100 and 110 it looked like, though I think there were some skulked and apologetic in the toilet too. Most were probably going between 16 and 20 miles from London. I reckon their average fair would have been £20. So all in all, at least £8000 of revenue on this 4 carriage train. I wondered how many would get as far as the reclaim form. We are experts in anger and frustration, but rank amateurs in seeing our frustration through to recompense. Imagine how much these companies would insist the
government gave them to ensure a payout for shareholders if we all kept demanding our money back. I have been told that Railtrack must pay up for inconvenience to the train companies many minutes before it is deemed that the passengers deserve a pay out.
The traveler is merely a required inconvenience in the business of profit.

Services from Euston seem to have been particularly dismal this Autumn. It might just be pattern seeking me, making a pattern out of the number of times I have reached a flesh flooded concourse and seen the “delayed”, “cancelled”, “delayed” lights of the indicator board. If only these lights could be fashioned to create a gallic shrug. The supposed tone and wording of the “apology” makes it all the more sarcastic. Did your mother tell you that you really had to mean your apology and that the apology was an acknowledgement that you would try harder? (does anyone know if there are fewer reserve crew members than there used to be? Seems once two trains are screwed, then the knock on effect goes on for hours due to lack of crew).

The cost keeps going up, and the trains seem fuller every month. The weekend trains are frequently packed, the carriages fewer, the impediments greater. Like so many British things, the outward look of success, greater use, greater revenue, becomes one of the alibis for each failure. “it’s not easy you know, we are very successful”.

I remember the abysmal service at a hotel breakfast once, after the 30 minute wait for toast, I politely asked if it would be coming at all. I received a terse, “as you can see, we are very busy”, as if it had come as a complete surprise that all these people had suddenly turned up, rudely booking merely weeks or months before, leaving the poor, shocked management beleaguered and furious that they had the annoying trouble of a successful weekend.

Why are we all still traveling by train anyway? Is the visit to the office a last totemic habit that should have been usurped by skype and emails and rapid international communication? It is not as if work ceases once out of the Ryman stinking carpet space. Stood on trains, tablets and phones in hand, the business type still stoops under the burden of mass communication, unable to escape into any alibi that can lead to relaxation until trapped in a tunnel due to land slippage or in the upper undergrowth of a mountain.

How very archaic “the customer always comes first” seems now.

Now, grab a bundle of travel recompense forms and start claiming back. Dividend damage, it’s the only language they understand.

there is a new series of live science and history gigs this Christmas with the likes of Stewart Lee, Mary Beard and many more. Tickets HERE

I am off to Totton, Bordon, Northampton, SOUTHEND, Dublin, Belfast, Exeter and Coventry (plus USA and Australia next year) Details http://www.robinince.com

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