It sucks to be a Customer

Letter1:
Dear First Capital Connect,

Could you please insert your meaningless apology here after yet another fine effort recently in your ongoing failed and futile attempts at running a decent rail service? One evening this week, I got to Kings Cross around 8:20pm (well after peak hour), learned the next train wasn’t for another fifteen minutes thanks to your ’we’ve-just-halved-the-number-of-services-but-kept-train-ticket-prices-unchanged’ policy, and that this train itself was running a further eight to ten minutes late thanks to your ‘sure-there-are-less-trains-but-that-doesn’t-mean-they’ll-be-any-more-punctual’ philosophy. And then when it did arrive, it was so full that there was not even standing room to get onto it. So I’d been waiting for nearly twenty five minutes for no reason at all.

But hey, you’ve put up Apology Signs and announcements, so that makes it all much better.

Oh, and you’ve declassified First Class- your generosity truly knows no bounds. Because there’s nothing like releasing an extra twenty seats or so per train so that they can then be occupied by people who get to sit down while an even greater number of people get to uncomfortably stand there admire their extra leg room. How very charitable of you.

So I decided to travel to another station further ‘up’ the train line so that maybe I could actually gain entry to a train like my ticket supposedly entitles me. Needless to say, this took considerable time spent both getting on the cheap, efficient subway which you don’t run, then walking 20minutes to another one of your stations, and it goes without saying that this train was delayed as well. Thank you so much.

Please feel free to put a second meaningless apology here for that.

On a more serious side, could you answer a moral question for me? Would you accept that by butchering your timetable and leaving your prices the same, you are in effect stealing from your customers the service they have paid for (the generosity of declassifying 1st class notwithstanding)? So tell me, would it be wrong if in response to this I were engage in fare evasion since what you’re basically doing is a just-as-bad crime I like to call service evasion

Please provide any ethical guidelines that might help me understand why you can steal from us and yet it would (apparently) be wrong to steal from you? Would it, for instance, be sufficient to apologise after every time I’ve evaded a fare?

Finally, just so you know that I did read your response to my last letter, let me not forget to thank you for the heartfelt details on your effort to (eventually) get your driver numbers back to normal?

There is a certain illumination that can only come when you are informed that it takes a year (1 year ‘no short-cuts’) to learn to drive a vehicle that only goes forwards and backwards, on its own rails. So that’s… what… one month learning how to drive forward? Then one on how to drive backwards? Then one learning how the brakes work? Then …. three? months… maybe.. to learn how rail signalling works? And then what? Two months annual leave and then four months worth of revision? Are you HONESTLY expecting me to believe that is possible?

But please, don’t answer that largely rhetorical question if you have limited time available.

I’d be much more interested in hearing about whether you think fare evasion has any moral negative karma attached to it when it’s perpetrated against you, and the meaningless apologies I believe I’m entitled to receive in exchange for yet another day of being jerked around by you guys.

Regards.

Three days, no response. Great, because as a result now I’m writing to the Department of Transport. That letter goes a little somehing like this:

Letter2:
Dear Sirs,

I don’t know if you’re aware, but owing to driver shortages, First Capital Connect has been forced to run an amended timetable for the foreseeable future until further notice.

I believe several things:

1. That First Capital Connect are ripping off their customers – if anything, their reduced train timetable will probably mean lower costs and higher profits for them. They are clearly not suffering through their lax service – their customers are

2. That there is no incentive for First Capital Connect to improve its service voluntarily without pressure from the government. They run a monopoly where their customers do not have any alternative but to use them, other than arranging private transport, changing jobs, or moving house. They know this, and act accordingly.

3. Putting up an apology sign is insufficient (it’s nestled, almost camouflaged, among many other distracting signage and advertising) at some of their train stations. It is an insult, as is believing that declassifying first class is somehow a compensation.

4. If they have significantly reduced their timetable then they should
significantly reduce their fares
. It is palpably unfair to offer unchanged prices for daily, weekly, monthly and season tickets when providing LESS service

5. That the reason (long term driver illnesses and an unwillingness to work overtime) for this problem showcases that First Capital Connect are aware they can get away with ridiculously ‘risky’ business decisions that no competitively minded organisation would attempt. They relied on an unsustainable agreement withdrivers, took a gamble that it would continue, lost that gamble, and their customers are suffering.

Please, on behalf of the customers of this train company, do something. Insist on reduced fares, if nothing else, if that is within your power. And if this has been sent to the wrong department, please forward it on to the right one.

Regards,

I’ll let you know how it goes. I assume a deafening silence… which is then filled by more apologies for the redued service, the late running trains and any inconvenience this “may” cause

Postscript 1: As at December, First Capital Connect have REPLACED the stark ‘Apology’ boards at Kings Cross St Pancras with a more friendly ’We’re Sorry’ one that has colour photos of manangers/directors and their signatures, I suspect in an attempt to make the apology more personal. I’ll have to read it fully – I only brushed past it, but I am glad that meaningless apologies are now presented to me in colour. Thanks, First Capital Connect!!

It sucks to be a Customer

berndt2

Joined July 2007

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Do I really have anything new to say about how execrable my train operator is? Sadly… yes. Again.

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