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Author Topic: Cross Country - staff shortages  (Read 666 times)
grahame
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« on: August 27, 2018, 09:35:05 am »

I'm noting that Cross Country may be a bit short of crew at times ... just that they don't show up on Journey check.   This morning's 08:28 Penzance to Newcastle has become a 10:25 Plymouth to Newcastle, with at extra train 5E44 scheduled at 08:28 none-stop and empty from Penzance to Plymouth.

It really looks like we have a systemic problem in the UK ... so often trains (across may franchises) being cancelled with lack of crew.  Surely it can't be carelessness / incompetence / bad management all the way around?   Are our expectations as passengers too high?   Is the balance between the profit motive and the customer service motive such that the cost of having adequate staff available outweighs the cost of upset customers?  Is there a central / systemic issues caused by a national body concerned in all franchises, such as government, unions, or Network Rail?
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ellendune
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« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2018, 09:50:52 am »

I could see that, given the lengthy (and expensive) training period, TOCs might try and avoid recruitment of new train crew towards the end of a franchise - and with short franchises - that might be quite a lot of the time.  If that is the issue then how about all TOCs paying a training levy that funds the training of new train crew?

On the other hand the hours of work are fairly unsocial and if another partner also works then this creates problems with childcare. Customer facing crew also face abuse from passengers. Sometimes the increased costs of childcare simply don't make jobs viable. Are there simply better job opportunities that don't create these problems? I know there are other industries where jobs with unsocial hours have problems recruiting and since many of them rely on migrant labour this can only get worse! Do we need to make these jobs more attractive? If so how?   
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TaplowGreen
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« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2018, 10:30:12 am »

I'm noting that Cross Country may be a bit short of crew at times ... just that they don't show up on Journey check.   This morning's 08:28 Penzance to Newcastle has become a 10:25 Plymouth to Newcastle, with at extra train 5E44 scheduled at 08:28 none-stop and empty from Penzance to Plymouth.

It really looks like we have a systemic problem in the UK ... so often trains (across may franchises) being cancelled with lack of crew.  Surely it can't be carelessness / incompetence / bad management all the way around?   Are our expectations as passengers too high?   Is the balance between the profit motive and the customer service motive such that the cost of having adequate staff available outweighs the cost of upset customers?  Is there a central / systemic issues caused by a national body concerned in all franchises, such as government, unions, or Network Rail?

The railways exhibit the worst customer service culture that I have seen across numerous sectors in the UK - . The "systemic issue" is that the industry is at best indifferent to its customers, at worst contemptuous of them. It is borne of an attitude stuck in the nationalised industry era of the 1970s that customers should be grateful for what they are given, and a tutting/shrugging of shoulders whenever anyone dares to raise an issue -  a perfect example is GWR, who constantly tell people to email/write to them, only for a reply to take 3 or 4 weeks due to a "backlog" that has now been ongoing for well over a year.


The level of customer communication and constructive advice during times of disruption is appalling


That is not to belittle pockets of excellence I have seen from individuals on the front line.


It is ridiculous to suggest that our expectations are too high - our fares are very high, and in return for that we should expect excellent customer service - it doesn't need to be expensive, it's largely driven by organisational culture.


One of the problems is the lack of commercial motivation for Rail Companies to improve levels of customer satisfaction - stick a KPI in there which is incentivised/penalised appropriately and you'd soon see a major upturn in prioritisation of customer service - better yet - link management bonuses to it.

There are also issues around outdated working practices and Union intransigence over weekend working (particularly Sundays) which causes chaos for customers but that's been done to death elsewhere, yet it's another example of attitudes (on both management and Union side) that give little or no consideration to the needs of customers.

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eightf48544
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« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2018, 11:00:43 am »

The split of train crew between TOCs is one of the deleterious consequences of privatisation. In BR days Penzance crews would have worked the up morning trains out of Penzance and would have known the traction Voyagers, HSTs loco hauled and 15Xs. There would also have probably been a spare link (wasteful?) to cover absence of crew.

Now you have TOC based drivers who only know their TOCs traction and the normal routes (and not necessarily any diversionary routes) . There is a letter in the current Modern always saying GTR don't train their drivers on all the routes from Farringdon to East Croydon so if there is engineering work or other blockage of the normal route trains can't be diverted.

The government also thought that splitting the drivers into smaller units would diminish ASLEF's power., instead it's played into their hands as they only need a few drivers at one TOC to take action.

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SandTEngineer
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« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2018, 11:00:59 am »

Yes Grahame.  That has been happening a lot West of Exeter over the past few weeks.  Generally the train is terminated short of destination and the stock then goes forward to there as empty stock to keep it in place for its scheduled working next day.  Possibly then due to a shortage of guards?
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grahame
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« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2018, 01:16:52 pm »

...   Are our expectations as passengers too high?   ...
It is ridiculous to suggest that our expectations are too high ...

I have "liked" your post (even if you call my question 'ridiculous')   Smiley

It was just a question. And I agree with you that the customer should expect far, far better than they seem to be routinely provided with - by many train operators - at the moment.     Think of the poor chap turning up at Truro station with his partner just before 9 a.m. to get the train to Doncaster today ... to see his train whizzing through, without stopping, 10 minutes before it was due.    Due Doncaster 16:17 - wonder what time he'll get there.

If my original report was "gosh - this is unusual" then the rail industry might be forgiven.  But as the report is "here we go again ...", it shows ... again ... a failure of the rail industry to provide for its customers.
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devonexpress
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« Reply #6 on: August 28, 2018, 01:24:37 am »


On the other hand the hours of work are fairly unsocial and if another partner also works then this creates problems with childcare. Customer facing crew also face abuse from passengers. Sometimes the increased costs of childcare simply don't make jobs viable. Are there simply better job opportunities that don't create these problems? I know there are other industries where jobs with unsocial hours have problems recruiting and since many of them rely on migrant labour this can only get worse! Do we need to make these jobs more attractive? If so how?   

To be fair, most jobs in the railway seem to be only 8 hours per day, thats basically a trip from say Plymouth to London, a 2 hour break and then return London to Plymouth. With most jobs paying a minimum of 20k starting salary, Drivers on 30 - 50k, guards around 30k thats better than those in the NHS, Fire or Police.  The issue is that many TOC's are getting incredibly fussy with who they recruit, for example in GWR if they don't like the look of you for a customer facing role, then you don't get in, and by that I purely mean how someones looks, not their attitude.

Personally its a problem nationwide, people blaming youngsters for not having the qualifications or attitude, yet can't be bothered to train them up or give them a chance.  You can't expect college's and universities to provide all the training, the point of them is to give people enough knowledge to start into a sector, not to learn what someone else has gained over 20 years after finishing an apprenticeship!   It also doesn't help that most TOC staff contracts to not include mandatory workings on Saturday, Sunday & Bank Holidays, all of which are classed as overtime, the only reason it hasn't changed is because the TOC's are scared of the unions.



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grahame
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« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2018, 06:14:09 am »

Nationwide ... are staff shortage caused by
1. Lack of suitable candidates
2. Not enough candidates being taken on and starting training
3. Too high a drop out rate during training
3a. Insufficient staff coming in trained by a competitor
4. Enough trained staff, but not at the right place and time
5. Too short a time spent in the job (people leaving far too soon)
or by most or even all of the above  Cheesy

(This can be a generic question for any job which requires lots of people across the country)
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