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Author Topic: Customer Panel - are my concerns justified?  (Read 6862 times)
grahame
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« on: February 24, 2007, 09:45:37 am »

Split topic - following on from Chris's intro

P.S.   Chris - I would REALLY like to start up a further discussion on the Customer Panel(s).  If you can follow up here in answer to my first comments, I'll split this into a separate thread

I have concerns at their geographic nature in some cases . For example, living in Bridgwater, I have to question how well you know the issues effecting Tiverton Parkway, e.g. recent stuff I was hearing from there about restaurant car services from London.

I also have concerns as to whether you might feel you have a conflict of interests between being loyal to the company who, I think, provide you with a number of outings / interesting perks.   I'm happy to see, though, that you're not averse to taking a balanced view.

Please forgive the concerns - from a personal (TransWilts) service viewpoint, none of the customer panel members uses it, so I'm somewhat disjoined from it and have found myself (on one noteable occasion) having to tell a panel member about a service of 68 trains a week that ran in his zone.

« Last Edit: February 24, 2007, 01:43:42 pm by grahame » Logged

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ChrisMcCarthy
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« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2007, 12:47:47 pm »

Graham,

Many thanks for your reply to my message. I will try and answer some of your points.

The ideaology of the Panel is that it is a cross selection of different kinds of travellers (commuters, leisure, occasional) of First Great Western services. Therefore, immediately you may get Panel members who don't see their "services" on a daily basis.  I, myself am a daily traveller between Bridgwater and Taunton. It is therefore true that I do not see Tiverton Parkway as frequently as the other two (although I do go there when I can due to my working hours). However I do not feel this does impair me in my role, as I do keep in close contact with events at Tiverton Parkway. I do also have good relations with First Great Western management covering the stations.

In response to the second question... I would emphasise that all Customer Panel members are volunteers. It is correct that First Great Western would, for example, invite us to participate in an event if there is a justifiable reason for Panel Members to be there. This is done so the Panel can excercise their remit through increased knowledge and railway experience (for example... Meet the Manager sessions which I have done before), although I would accept why you may view a conflict.

I am loyal to First Great Western in the belief that they have a very large part to play in making the passengers life the best possible... my job is to help accomplish this. I can understand concern that you might feel the Panel are an additional "propaganda" machine for First Great Western.  I can assure you this is not the case. My opinions are purely my own and do not necessarily represent those of other Panel Members or especially First Great Western.

It is certainly my opinion that First Great Western hide behind their franchise agreement, and that recently that has cost them very dearly in tremendous amounts of negative publicity for very good reason. However, as previously said, they are a commercial contractor for the Government and this must be remembered certainly for reasons of objectivity.

Overall SLC2 is after all a minimum level of service commitment that is required and the contractor should aim to better it. I work with this belief in mind to do my remit. 

I hope this does go some way to alleviate some of the concerns you may have. I am positive that the Customer Panel can help and my personal support is there.

Regards


Chris Corbin
First Great Western Customer Panel Member
Highbridge and Burnham - Tiverton Parkway
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Highbridge and Burnham - Tiverton Parkway
grahame
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« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2007, 01:48:22 pm »

I hope this does go some way to alleviate some of the concerns you may have. I am positive that the Customer Panel can help and my personal support is there.

Yes indeed, thanks, Chris ... and also for others who may have wondered an who, perhaps, haven't had met / talked with panel members and may be a bit "woolly" about it.

I've split this topic off the original thread it was in, by the way ... do I'll just re-add that I'm very much supportive / wanting to work with the train operator too, for the benefit of them, the taxpayer, and the traveller.
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SusanW
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« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2007, 12:42:21 pm »

Just to give Ox Rail Action's experience with Customer Panels members in our area:

As soon as we set up a campaign group, one of the first things we did was attempt to contact both our Customer Panel member. The only way to contact our CP member was a general e-mail address. This I did twice, with no reply and subsequently gave up on trying to contact our member. However, this was rectified in January when our member contacted us and came along to one of our meetings. He was very apologetic that he had not seen our e-mails due to an administrative error of some sort.

I think this shows that our Customer Panel members should be much more visible and contactable - perhaps a postal address or a telephone number to obtain specific contact details. I do appreciate that FGW (First Great Western) want a cross-section of rail passengers, but I do feel that the panel member should be very visible and well known to regular passengers. Perhaps FGW could make the areas they cover smaller or somehow more relevant.

One of the things that Ox Rail Action is planning to request in the future is some sort of passenger noticeboard in the station, where we can post news and updates about the group and also about how to contact the Customer Panel member. To represent the views of passengers, all members should be very easily contactable.

Susan
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ChrisMcCarthy
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« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2007, 11:19:45 am »

Susan,
 
I apologise for the delay in writing this post. I have been liasing with various contacts within First Great Western as you have raised some very valid points that needed some further clarification. I hope you don't mind, but I believe that this may answer some queries for Graham as well.
 
The Customer Panel is available to contact through the generic email address on the website. Unfortunately individual email addresses are not available to the public for Data Protection reasons, and this is unlikely to change. However I do agree that just directing customers to the website to contact us is inappropriate in itself. I have been informed that from the next timetable (May 2007), the contact details for the Panel will be put in all First Great Western timetables, including the postal address.
 
Posters should be up at stations advertising the Panel and containing the email and postal address to contact us. I do understand that there has been some difficulty with the siting of posters at various stations within the network, and I am assured that this is currently being rectified. There are also leaflets available which detail the local Panel members and the areas they represent. These should be available at your stations as well as the Reach customer magazine which has dedicated pages for the Customer Panel.
 
As I have said previously, I do not believe the current set-up of the Panel needs to be changed. It is this cross-section that makes the group appeal to all kinds of passengers needs. I do agree nontheless that the Customer Panel need to be seen to be effective (not that this necessitates daily travel to achieve this), and I remain committed to that, as I believe First Great Western are as well.
 
Obviously, on your personal experience within Ox Rail Action, I am sorry to hear that you have had difficulties in communication with the Customer Panel. I have been in contact with your Customer Panel member, and he is very committed to being inviolved with Ox Rail Action. I can only assume that this particular issue was a temporary IT problem which has certainly been sorted since that time.
 
 
Regards
 
 
 
Chris Corbin
First Great Western Customer Panel Member
Highbrodge and Burnham - Tiverton Parkway.   

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Highbridge and Burnham - Tiverton Parkway
grahame
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« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2007, 10:16:39 am »

Chris,

Many thanks for the time you're taking to answer Susan and myself - it's a delight to have your thorough inputs, and to help our understanding of the customer panel.

For myself personally, and all users of the Swindon to Westbury and beyond service, 110k journeys per year according to First, it's proven to be less than useful. 

Our major issue is the 60% reduction in train services, and the movement of the remaining 2 trains to 06:19 and 18:42 (off Swindon times quoted) which isn't appropriate for the 11 previous traffic flows we have identified.  Our panel member cannot remember when he last used the service, and has been unable to attend meetings on the subject. I have even been asked not to give apologies for absence from him nor to send him updates (confirmed as recently as last Saturday when I bumped into him at a meeting we were both attending - "havent't the time, not interested"). He has promised to get back in touch if he hears any good news. In his view, his remit appears to be as a conduit for good news from the company.

((There are - always - two sides to a story and I can be robust at times.))

Please forgive my frustration.  And, believe it or not, I do feel for panel members in areas such as ours who can get caught between a rock and a hard place. But if they don't like the heat, perhaps they shouldn't be in the kitchen in the first place and they should let someone who does like the heat take over?
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