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First Great Western and the Selfish Customer

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- Tom Winnifrith

“Apologies for the late departure from the last station – we were delayed by some selfish passengers who did not arrive on time.” That is what the ticket collector has just announced on my train. I am beginning to take a dislike to First Great Western as it attitude to customers is not really very impressive. My “customer experience” started badly. And then got worse.

The announcement as to which platform the 5 PM train departed from went up at 4.54 PM. Given that this company insists on closing all doors 40 seconds before departure (cue for Network Rail to erect a legion of signs on the Platform alerting us to this) that allowed several hundred passengers exactly 330 seconds to rush to the ticket gate, fight each other to get through and then run up the platform to the first class section where everyone clambered on in order not to miss the train. We then trooped slowly through two empty first class carriages until arriving in cattle class where we filled almost every seat. Would it be too much trouble to give folks ten minutes notice of departure?

The ticket collector passed through. Why do you need a man to stamp your ticket when you have already had it screened at a barrier in London? The reason it appears is to tell a few of my fellow passengers that under the fiendishly complex fare structure of First Great Western they could have saved money by this ruse or that. “Just to help you for next time sir.” I don’t suppose there is any chance of First Great Western imparting this information before anyone buys a ticket?

And now to the selfish passengers. Well it is a piss poor excuse anyway because the train has every right to leave on time with anyone who is not on the platform at the appointed time left in the cold. So First Great Western has no excuse for delaying the rest of us. But how does the rather pompous ticket collector know that the passengers who were late were “selfish?” They might be. But I doubt that anyone would deliberately risk missing the train just because they put their own interests ahead of everyone else’s.

Perhaps there was traffic on the way to the station? The kids were sick in the car? The connecting train was late (no doubt because of selfish passengers and not because the train operator is in any way at fault)? The, very few, hugely expensive parking spaces provided by the deranged sign erectors at Network Rail were all full? I can think of numerous reasons that are far more likely to cause a potential passenger to arrive late on the platform than innate selfishness. But the ticket collector, who on reflection I have decided that I have taken a bit of a dislike to, clearly knows best. First Great Western is never wrong.

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