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Author Topic: Disruption, 12-14/10 - should the passengers have an explanation and apology?  (Read 1148 times)
grahame
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« on: November 21, 2020, 05:00:09 pm »

On Saturday and Sunday 10th and 11th October, buses replaced trains on the "TransWilts" service through Melksham.   This was advertised ahead of time, and from what I heard the buses ran as scheduled. The line was due to re-open for the 05:33 call at Melksham on the morning of Monday 12th October, but a full service was not restored until three days later - the morning of Thursday 15th October.  Over the three days (Monday though Wednesday), 51 services were due to call at Melksham but according to our records, only 11 called, with the other 40 either cancelled completely or diverted via Bathampton so not calling at Melksham.

Information to customers at Melksham was poor, and for much of the three days indicated that there would be "disruption until [time]" where the time given was some 2 to 4 hours into the future, and it then slipped.  At times it was even more immediate than that. I went to catch the 05:33 on the Monday morning (more that 24 hours after the cable damage had been done, I now understand) and it was showing as "on time" at about 05:30.   Which changed to "delayed", with the person the passengers reached via the help point saying he didn't know how long the delay would be, and if the train didn't turn up, the next service would be at 07:21, and that was running.  Our train DID run - 45 minutes late - it was one of the 11 over the three days, but ironically the 07:21 did not. 

Provision of road replacement services is perhaps best described as "sluggish" - understandable perhaps on Monday morning as it was "only" 24 hours after the damage had been done, but it would appear that the undue optimism that talked of a service up and running in a few hours also lead to a failure to book buses and taxis for more than a few hours ahead.  We do have a known problem in the area that very few of our taxis will accept GWR customers. Cabbies telling us it's because it takes them so long to get paid.

Road replacement ran from Chippenham to Melksham and Trowbridge - sensible because there are plenty of other trains from Swindon to Chippenham.   The idea was that passengers at Swindon be told to get on the Bristol train and change at Chippenham onto the bus.  This worked for some passengers, but others waited for the train at the Swindon bay platform as usual, and they were not advised to catch the other train, so it left without them.  30 minutes later into Chippenham and the rail replacement bus for these passengers from Swindon had long since left...

In the month since the disruption, there has been no explanation or apology to the passengers significantly impacted through no fault of their own. ... the various rail industry organisations have apologised to each other, mind you!

The TransWilts CRP raised the ongoing issues with Great Western and Network Rail, and Network Rail sent them a letter with an explanation of what had happened and an apology. However, this letter was marked
Quote
The content of this email (and any attachment) is confidential. It may also be legally privileged or otherwise protected from disclosure.  This email should not be used by anyone who is not an original intended recipient, nor may it be copied or disclosed to anyone who is not an original intended recipient.
and because of that, the explanation and apology was not passed on either to the Rail User Group or the passengers who had been inconvenienced and let down by the service failure, the poor alternatives, and the lack of information.

I attended the GWR Stakeholder's meeting on the Friday ( 16th October ) and followed up on a general invite by the Network Rail person present to get in touch should any of us at the meeting have issues to raise;  I dropped him a note that afternoon and got a personal reply (with that same disclaimer) promising a separate reply from [name redacted] which never came.  This suggests that Network Rail's stated intent to engage fully with the people who use its services is more words than deeds.

At the TransWilts Stakeholder and member meeting last Monday, the audience was briefed on what had happened, and bearing in mind these slide was shared with the 20 or so people at that meeting, including members from the public, I felt they might at long last be available to share with the railway's users.  I also wrote to [name redacted] from Great Western -
Quote
In my view, the passengers who were put out that week deserved an explanation (and apology?).  Apologising to the Community Rail Partnership in confidence is not apologising to the customer, and if they can?t pass the message on does no good in restoring passenger confidence. As you have now spoken and shown slides at the wider meeting, may I share those slides with our user at the Melksham Rail User Group meeting on Wednesday, and as a public post on our social media?
.  Having not heard back before the meeting (and indeed not since either), I included the slides on Wednesday and am now posting them on social media.

Here's what actually went wrong



Better late that never, it is my belief that passenger deserve an explanation (which they now have, above) and an apology (which is singularly missing from the industry's slides and was only given to TransWilts in confidence, and not passed on).

On a more positive note, it does look as if lessons have been learned - with attention being given to better information especially for passengers waiting at Melksham, to improving rail replacement services, and to safeguarding key services should the line need to be thinned out again (all too regular with diverted IETs going through.   To give readers an idea of key service... the 07:21 from Melksham was reported as loaded to 452% of what is should be (further north on its run) on day earlier this month when the 3 cars were reduced to 2 - popped up as the most overloaded train on GWR, and of course the percentage is measured against the new social distance norm.  For most of the day, TransWilts traffic like everyone else has taken a huge hit this year - but a lesser hit than most. 

For next year, (starting December 13 2020) we're back to full TransWilts service as was planned for 2020.  The extra late train that's in the "DA3" franchise that was superceeded by events is not yet happening, and the first morning train on a Sunday to Swindon will be replaced by a bus for the winter. That is a good story compared to some other lines, but then our services are so sparse that a single loss can have a major impact, and we have key worker traffic seven days a week using that Sunday train.

Regular readers will appreciate how reluctant I am to post the above, much preferring to work with professionals. However, having hit three walls - at the CRP, at Network Rail and at GWR when asking that the passengers be informed, I am left with little option but explaining it to people I inform in spite of that lack of usable feedback.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2020, 06:10:56 pm by grahame » Logged

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TaplowGreen
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« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2020, 05:53:47 pm »

Graham - you've illustrated one of the key problems GWR and "the railway" has - the attitude it has to its customers.

As has been discussed elsewhere, the railways face a huge challenge over the coming months and years in a changed environment with significantly less demand for its services.

Customer service culture is 100% within the control of the railways to change, and is perhaps one way in which customers can be encouraged to return and remain.

It is starting from such a low place in this respect that any improvement - like above in basic communication and a willingness to say "we got it wrong" and apologise - represents a good start.
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CyclingSid
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« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2020, 08:26:17 am »

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The content of this email (and any attachment) is confidential. It may also be legally privileged or otherwise protected from disclosure.  This email should not be used by anyone who is not an original intended recipient, nor may it be copied or disclosed to anyone who is not an original intended recipient.

Another example of British obsession with secrecy? What is the need for keeping this "technical" issue confidential? It does not exactly expose state of the art technology to competitors. More like the case of trying to obscure management ineptitude.
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grahame
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« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2020, 09:17:20 am »

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The content of this email (and any attachment) is confidential. It may also be legally privileged or otherwise protected from disclosure.  This email should not be used by anyone who is not an original intended recipient, nor may it be copied or disclosed to anyone who is not an original intended recipient.

Another example of British obsession with secrecy? What is the need for keeping this "technical" issue confidential? It does not exactly expose state of the art technology to competitors. More like the case of trying to obscure management ineptitude.

I also note ...

* It can be far less effort just to do something and move on rather that having to explain it to anyone who's interested if you don't have to

* Some of the key people involved come from a competitive commercial background, where revealing technical information gives the competitive edge away to others in the same market, so their natural instinct and their mode of operation is "secret squirrel".

... and I see elements of both of those at play here.   But being "secret squirrel" looses goodwill and co-operation from the wider community of passengers, volunteers and supporters, and it's not exactly as if there's major competition for custom or methods employed.   One of the great joys I found in a Community Rail role was to be able to learn from Falmouth, Chandler's Ford, Weymouth and Avonmouth ...
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grahame
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« Reply #4 on: November 22, 2020, 10:24:33 am »

As has been discussed elsewhere, the railways face a huge challenge over the coming months and years in a changed environment with significantly less demand for its services.

Customer service culture is 100% within the control of the railways to change, and is perhaps one way in which customers can be encouraged to return and remain.

Huge topic ... I have quoted you at http://www.passenger.chat/24255 , looking at where we stand and rumours of where we are going.   A time of great opportunity, but also of great risk is we do not grasp the nettle.  And in the meantime, we need to take the lessons on board from last month.
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ChrisB
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« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2020, 12:15:38 pm »

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The content of this email (and any attachment) is confidential. It may also be legally privileged or otherwise protected from disclosure.  This email should not be used by anyone who is not an original intended recipient, nor may it be copied or disclosed to anyone who is not an original intended recipient.

Another example of British obsession with secrecy? What is the need for keeping this "technical" issue confidential? It does not exactly expose state of the art technology to competitors. More like the case of trying to obscure management ineptitude.

Neither - as NR generally converse with the public, but business issues, it is a standard paragraph added to their emails - not specific to the ones that Graham has seen. Many companies do this.

Graham - in your correspondence with NR, did they confirm that this paragraph applied to the specific emails? Or did you simply asume it did? The latter would be umderstandable.
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grahame
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« Reply #6 on: November 22, 2020, 01:02:50 pm »

Graham - in your correspondence with NR, did they confirm that this paragraph applied to the specific emails? Or did you simply asume it did? The latter would be umderstandable.

Wellllll ... the text does specifically say "THIS email" so reads that it applies to the content just above.

Network Rail send their fully explanation and apology to our local CRP and it was not copied to me. It was very briefly on their (CRP) web site but then withdrawn. I was told it had been decided it could not be shared beyond those it was sent to, due to a potential breach of confidence. Not my decision to hold it back, and I regret not doing a screen grab.
 
When I asked Network Rail directly, in response to the public invite their rep gave at the GWR stakeholder conference to raise any issues with him, his reply just confirmed he would get someone [he gave name a name but I have redacted it] was [also] labelled with that paragraph.  Had the text said "please pass on my apology" or words to that effect, I would have taken that as confirming in was intended for all interested parties as "intended recipients" and so be allowed.

Personally (but it is not my job or role any longer) if I had received the apology and details from Network Rail under that confidentiality clause, I would have got back to them asking "may I share".  I have no indication as to whether or not our local CRP asked, but then we did get the follow up from GWR last Monday (NR did not, to my knowledge, attend the CRP meeting) which is posted above.

Sorry for the long explanation ... - edits to clarify the details.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2020, 01:26:37 pm by grahame » Logged

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ChrisB
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« Reply #7 on: November 22, 2020, 04:01:44 pm »

Wellllll ... the text does specifically say "THIS email" so reads that it applies to the content just above.

Yes, that is definitely part of their standard paragraph, so we are no further forward.

I agree that someone in the CRP should have followed up with a 'can we publish' query. Probably too late now
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eXPassenger
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« Reply #8 on: November 22, 2020, 05:17:20 pm »

Wellllll ... the text does specifically say "THIS email" so reads that it applies to the content just above.

Yes, that is definitely part of their standard paragraph, so we are no further forward.

I agree that someone in the CRP should have followed up with a 'can we publish' query. Probably too late now

To extend this point if the footer is added automatically to all outgoing emails the sender may not know (or has forgotten) that it is there.  However the customer facing staff should know it is there and issue an override in their email.
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