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Author Topic: Tuesday morning rambling for "Introduction and Chat"  (Read 529 times)
grahame
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« on: October 06, 2020, 09:52:21 am »

Yesterday, I caught the first train from Melksham up to Swindon.



And already tired after duty as a Journey Maker at Swindon, I caught the 11:05 home from Swindon. Not looking to do serious writing / notes, I took up GWR's invite to complete their ontrain survey.

Now - prior to comments that may appear critical, I applaud researching of the views of travelling customers.  I understand the use, and I understand the need to ask early enough in the journey to give the respondent time to complete.  But - just joining and logging on with the train sat in the bay at Swindon, I don't yet have any clue as to how clear on-train announcements are on this journey, nor on whether I'll be interacting with the staff on the train and whether they'll be friendly, smart, too tall, or anything else.  Nor how good on-train WiFi will be, whether it will be on time ...

"What facilities did you use at the station - refreshments" ... Yeah, would have loved to after my shift was completed, but they're all closed down at the moment.  "When you get to your destination station [already entered] will that be the end of your rail journey, or will you be changing onto another trains". "Are you travelling First Class, Standard Class, or don't know" .... yeah, from the WiFi that's installed in a standard class only turbo.  Perhaps some of these are not really being asked for the answers, but to check the validity of the responses so that clearly impossible responses can be rejected?  In reality, I suspect a one-size-fits-all survey that is not train, location or answer responsive and relies on the person filling in all the answers to state what could be deduced automatically.

A different point and a wider concern. Here is a screen capture from the survey ...



That suggests to me that the ticket system we have is over-complex - a jaw-dropping list of options, an "other advanced purchase - please write in" box. "Please select one option" when your ticket if (for example) it's groupsave is also going to be peak or off peak, and may be "day" or not.

Standing as Journey Maker at Swindon, I was struck by the number of people approaching the barrier and not knowing which of the devices on the barrier to use go get through - contactless, slot for ticket, ticket reader camera.  And felt very sorry (though not withstanding that it may have been a try-on) for the people turned away to wait for the end of the peak - especially the person travelling with cycle, dog and luggage. May have been try-ons, though I suspect that latter was not, based on visit to ticket office to buy an upgrade, and a reluctant decision to then wait.  The departure board doesn't help the complexity - the 09:00 to Paddington says "Peak tickets Only are valid", but to my knowledge there's no such thing as a "peak ticket" and it really means "anytime ticket".

A change of tone and direction - and an appreciation of so much more of the passenger metrics.  And of the supreme use of a friendly face with a little knowledge around at stations - the role of the customer hosts.  Gateline staff at Swindon greatly fill that role, and it's good to see extra folks intermittently there in the lobby.  90% of questions are easy ones - "where's the Paddington train" or equivalent being top of the list. "Where's the bus station" even though it is signposted.  If in *any* doubt, especially on a rail matter - refer on to someone who can help - such as "train to Northampton". "Is there a shop on the platform" and an assumption that the enquirer was looking for a coffee, a snack, a magazine - but actually wanted to buy trousers to keep warm.

For the record - an appreciation not just of 90% but of 98% of passengers wearing masks / putting them on as they approached the station.  Of the remaining 2%, a quick smile and point to my own mask and "oops - sorry" - especially noted amongst the more senior travellers, who can be reassured with "yes, we've got used to the old way for 20/30/40 year and it's so easy to forget the change". Regrettably, railway contractors and very early travellers seem to number amongst than 2%

An appreciation of the flow from Swindon to school in Stroud for their total adherence to the new rules and general behaviour.  Some may be little devils away from the station, but in the station lobby they were a credit to themselves and all those who have helped them become such.

And an appreciation of the Sunflower lanyard scheme. It's described as "Hidden disabilities" and "I need a bit of extra consideration" but has rather morphed into "I don't need a mask" and wearing it saves the embarrassment of friendly-reminding someone who doesn't need reminding. Up to others (thinking BTP) to take things further with people not wearing masks, whether or not they need that little bit of extra help.

Disappointing to see only sparse use being made of hand sanitisers, and the number of people using masks to cover mouth but not nose.  "Wash you hands time and again" is a great message, somewhat diluted by the number of loos out of use - for example only 1 of two at the nearby Costa where I got a quick fix of coffee and a bacon roll at around 10:30.

And, finally, a big "Thank you" to the staff who made me welcome (and, yes, I know the Journey Makers may have been thrust on them) and to the Journey Maker organiser who followed up after the event to see how the shift had gone, check for any issues, and plan ahead.
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Ralph Ayres
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« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2020, 04:19:22 pm »

I think it's the survey that's too complicated, trying to cover all options when only a small proportion will apply for each person's journey; no-one will have had to choose from the entire list when buying their ticket. I do wonder what meaningful information will be gleaned from knowing whether someone bought one ticket rather than another as to a great extent it's determined for them by when and where they are travelling. Perhaps a better insight would be gained by asking how often someone travels, for what type of purpose and perhaps if they chose to travel at a particular time for a cheaper fare.

Ticketing is arguably too complex, though be careful what you wish for as simpler means less choice so fewer opportunities to get a bargain!  Broadly at the moment you can reduce the cost if you can travel at a less busy time of day, and reduce it further by opting to travel on a particular train on which the operator knows there is space.
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grahame
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« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2020, 06:28:38 pm »

I think it's the survey that's too complicated, trying to cover all options when only a small proportion will apply for each person's journey; no-one will have had to choose from the entire list when buying their ticket. I do wonder what meaningful information will be gleaned from knowing whether someone bought one ticket rather than another as to a great extent it's determined for them by when and where they are travelling. Perhaps a better insight would be gained by asking how often someone travels, for what type of purpose and perhaps if they chose to travel at a particular time for a cheaper fare.

Many of this questions were asked in a very long survey ... happy to give the information, though as someone who has had to analyse such data I wonder at what quality there will be in certain of the responses.

Quote
Ticketing is arguably too complex, though be careful what you wish for as simpler means less choice so fewer opportunities to get a bargain!  Broadly at the moment you can reduce the cost if you can travel at a less busy time of day, and reduce it further by opting to travel on a particular train on which the operator knows there is space.

Yes, and indeed government headlines are about simplifying the system and not about better value - indeed, they specified that they want the same level of income generated by the new system as the old in the RDG consultation.   When I challenge them "does that mean an average reduction of 10% in individual fares if the next system is more attractive and increases your business by 10%" they told me that was NOT what they meant  Grin

This business of advanced fares all going to the TOC where open ticket incomes is allocated vis ORCATS may now be academic. Does anyone know?   

As I understand it, a 37.00 "this GWR train only" advanced fare from Bristol to Plymouth gave 37.00 to GWR, and a 36.40 "this XC train only" fare gave 36.40 to XC, whereas a 44.00 off peak single would have been split in some proportion or other between GWR (guess 20.00) and XC (guess 24.00). As competing franchises, this worked to encourage competition, I suppose. With management contracts and all the income going into a DfT pot, what to the metrics of advance fares look like?   Might they still be useful in a modified form as a marketing tool?



See fares - Bristol to Plymooth
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bobm
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« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2020, 08:55:18 pm »

At least you caught the first train yesterday and not today!
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grahame
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« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2020, 08:59:24 pm »

At least you caught the first train yesterday and not today!

Yeah ... I know.    Mind, I would have got to Chippenham and been able to drop back to a train from Bristol.
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