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Author Topic: Are passenger inputs welcome?  (Read 4969 times)
grahame
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« on: June 10, 2007, 05:44:55 »

I've just picked up this exchange from another forum - and in a section marked "passenger chat" too.

Quote
driver wrote:
Quote
are you a railway professional you456?
Nope , so I'll shut up.

It reminds me - once again - who prevelant the attitude of "your just a customer so you know nothing" has been and - it seems remains - in the rail industry. Personally, I now know somewhate more than I did a year or two back, and I remain careful to suggest and question some things with - I hope - a fresh view, but not go much beyond.
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whistleblower
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« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2007, 10:17:37 »

I understand what you are saying completely, Graham.  There is definitely an 'insider' attitude amongst railway staff and a reluctance to listen to an outside point of view.  Having worked for 30 years in a similar industry with a similar 'insider' profile (and for the same reasons), I'd like to make a few comments on this general issue.

Let me try to give you a perspective of customer input - at least on the basic level.  Like the majority of my colleagues, I am not a railway enthusiast.  My interest is purely professional and my knowledge is either necessary for the job or accumulated by exposure to working full time in that environment.

However, the amount of knowledge that is necessary to work in a safety critical role on the railway is unbelievable.  Even for a conductor, the initial course is three months of relentless study before being allowed to work a train.  A conductor will do an intensive six weeks learning 'The Rules' which is the basic 6cm thick safety procedures manual and various other operational and safety documents dealing with things like use of the radio, systems of different train types, DC (Direct Current) electric lines, fire-fighting etc.  The exam (with an annual re-exam) is about five hours of face-to-face quizzing by a manager.  No multi-choice options here!  If he passes that he will then spend another six weeks learning the routes that he will work on.  He will have to be able to memorise and repeat all the stations, level crossings, junctions, line speeds, tunnels and associated signals and the individual requirements for each station and area.

Every week he will have to sign for a 250 page booklet of notices covering speed restrictions, engineering works, permanent way alterations and anything else he may need to know covering the area in which he works.  This has to be read and carried at all times.  There is an additional booklet of 150 pages which is less frequent but the same requirements apply.  On top of this are company notices and communications - and I haven't even mentioned ticketing and travel knowledge!

There is also plenty of 'gossip' in the messroom about incidents and occurrences and constant pager messages of what's happening around the network.  So even for somebody that has little outside interest in the railway I can't help accumulating a vast amount of knowledge and experience in a relatively short time.  Of course everybody on this forum will have both an interest and a reasonable amount of knowledge about the railway or they wouldn't be here - so I'm not referring to your readers, but the all-too-common armchair railway expert that usually confronts us is often armed only with comments from the letters page of the local paper.

So speaking for myself, I am reluctant to get into a conversation with somebody who thinks I am interested in his limited opinion of the railway.  I am not interested because the debate is far deeper than that and the 'letters page' stuff has been done to death and because I (reluctantly!) have far more background information than he can hope to acquire and I cannot transfer much of that knowledge in the five minutes between Trowbridge and Westbury.  Even if I had the will and the energy to do so Grin  So for every informed person like yourself, Graham, there will be a great many who do not have anything original to offer and, unless one is having a very quiet day, it is tempting to avoid such conversations! 

But I am not rude, unlike many people who work on the railways.  I might be a bit dismissive in trying to avoid entering such a conversation, but I will be friendly and they will not feel rebuffed.  I think that's the real problem on the railway -  the prevelant attitude of rudeness to other people.  Note that I don't say to customers.  These people are just as rude to other railway staff - particularly those who work along the South Coast (SouthWest Trains and Southern).  Many of us have taken to avoiding the messrooms in places such as Fratton, Portsmouth and Brighton because they are so unpleasant.  So please don't feel that they are only being rude to you, the customer.  It's not that personal - it's their culture and it's not even sophisticated rudeness like in New York.  It's just RUDE Roll Eyes

Hope this is helpful in giving you more of a background to the 'insider' attitude of railway staff.
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Jim
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« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2007, 21:31:23 »



But I am not rude, unlike many people who work on the railways.  I might be a bit dismissive in trying to avoid entering such a conversation, but I will be friendly and they will not feel rebuffed.  I think that's the real problem on the railway -  the prevelant attitude of rudeness to other people.  Note that I don't say to customers.  These people are just as rude to other railway staff - particularly those who work along the South Coast (SouthWest Trains and Southern).  Many of us have taken to avoiding the messrooms in places such as Fratton, Portsmouth and Brighton because they are so unpleasant.  So please don't feel that they are only being rude to you, the customer.  It's not that personal - it's their culture and it's not even sophisticated rudeness like in New York.  It's just RUDE Roll Eyes



I have heard guards saying that to me, some guards don't even like going to get the reservations (and I do belive them) so it must be pretty bad.

The knowledge needed for a safety critical role, tell me about it, it doesn't help after learning this you are ment to carry around quite a lot of the pages of knowledge with you, paticually route knowledge I belive.

Pager messages, depends who is on control, wether you get everything to do with high speed, even things like no buffet on certain services, but then more "interesting" messages come through as well, I know I have heard some pretty stupid things from the pager system before, as some people have showed me

Admitadly, sometimes I act like a "armchair expert" but I do have a bit of "real" knowledge, so I will confront if I think I have been unfairly treated, like the time I nearly walked home from Bradford because of the way a member of staff had "had a go at me" but that isn't for the fourm.

I think some of the ex-Wessex crews are some of the best on the railway, I don't think I have EVER in my 4 years of traveling solo had a bad expierence with Westbury or Fratton crews, could be becuase I know so many of them though, some of them will stand around and gossip about there bad expierances they have had during thier week, which normally takes quite a while.

Whistleblower, did you have too much spare time this morning, hammering out that essay  Grin

Cheers

Jim
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grahame
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« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2007, 08:14:45 »

Whistleblower, forgive me taking the best part of a week to even acknowledge your long and thoughtful response - I was out of the country and back to a mountain on my "day job".   As it is, my response now is going to have to be far shorter than I would wish with a lecture to write for tomorrow!

I agree with much - so much - of what you write;  there is simply no way that "Joe Public" can have the full and fined knowledge to make complete and informed inputs.  Heck - I couldn't describe the technology even behind how my fridge works, let alone be able to make sensible design suggestions for the next generation of fridges, so what makes me (or others) thinks that we can do the same for our public transport?

I take my fridge and it works.   I look to learn a little - a tiny bit - about how it works and I'm satisfied with the answer I get - it seems sensible - so I accept and move on.

I take my local train service and it works - less well that with my fridge as there are perceived to be frequent cancellations and a station where the more nervous feel unsafe at night.  But it works and its use is growing.  Then someone says they're going to take the growing service and change it.   I look to learn a little - a tiny bit - about the changes and the answers I'm given make no sense and appear to stink of a damaged or even corrupt system - and that (was) the point at which I said "this is crazy" - so I did not accept and started delving deeper.

I suspect that Joe Public would be delighted to let the railways and the professionals in the DfT» (Department for Transport - about), at FGW (First Great Western), at WCC (Wiltshire County Council (Until March 2009)) and all the rest get on and provide an appropriate service for the customers, and wannabe customers, of the railway.  Two years ago, I would have said I knew nothing about the modern rail industry except schedules of how I, and my customers, could use the services to and from Melksham.   And in a way I would love to be able to get much more back to that scenario.   Problem is ... I and many others feel let down; perhaps not by individuals (though there are one or two) but by the system - there are just so many places that we pull back the covers a bit and find not obvious common sense in a well oiled machine (as I did with my fridge) but a whole can of worms - apparently very hard to explain some crazy things (Why was a 0.8% growth forecast used when measured figures over years ranged between 10% and 35%?  Why when the government specified that a train must arrive in Swindon between 08:00 and 08:30 does that not happen? Why does the county subsidies a bus that takes 95 minutes and MISSES OUT two large towns between Trowbridge and Swindon, but fail to offer such support to the train that takes 35 minutes, carried about the same number of passengers, required the same subsidy level and TOOK IN those two large towns)

But, alas, these are not the questions that you, and the other customer facing staff on the ground can answer either ....

I think I've been rambling this morning.  I best go write that lecture.

Whistleblower,  it's a (tiny) minority of your colleagues who are rude, and then perhaps on a bad day only - heck, we've all had the shoe on the other foot too.   I think what "got my goat" on the original that I pasted here was that it was in  an area MARKED as passenger chat where the railway professional who posted had CHOSEN to step in - no obligation on him/her to do so.

Many thanks again for the thorough answer;  I don't actually feel I've done it justice in this response, but I do know that it will stand here as a good reference for others.
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