Sunday, July 20, 2008

Strangers on a train

I've been quite rude about Virgin Trains in the past and I've every expectation that I'll have reason to be in the future but I will admit that their customer care training for on-train staff must be pretty good. A colleague recently spent a few days in London and on the way back up to civilisation the train hit an obstacle on the track and very nearly derailed. In the event, nobody was hurt but the damage to the track and the overhead electric cables was such that it took a couple of hours for the emergency team to safely clear the debris and then get a new engine coupled to the train so that it could be pulled to Watford Station. Bad news all round, and not anything I'd wish on anybody. Luckily, the good old British pluck and stiff upper lip of some of the passengers made things oh so worse. This is some of what the train staff had to deal with...

"Why are they letting all those trains on those other tracks pass us? They should wait their turn instead of passing us. What are you doing about it? Why don't you stop one of them so that we can get off this one and join that one?"

Skipping the whole question of "what makes you think they're going your way?" this idiot, who insisted that he knew all about how railways work and the procedures the staff should be taking and obviously aren't, was talking out of his arse. I don't know if you've ever had to leave a train outside a station. I have, and it's a fair drop. So what this guy was proposing was that the guard should walk over three electrified railway tracks, flag down a passing train by waving his hankie, then one hundred and something passengers would jump off the injured train, walk across said tracks to the new train, do the five foot climb with no handholds to get on board and then said train would take a detour to get them to their destination, much to the glee of the original passengers who were going someplace a hundred miles distant. I can't see why the guard didn't jump at the idea.

Across the aisle from my colleague was a chap in a wheelchair. The train staff were very concerned about his well-being. When the offer of cold refreshments were being made to passengers they became very worried. Every option they suggested wasn't appropriate because of one or other dietary problem. They went back to the galley to see if anything else was available but even then nothing could be found that suited. They became very worried that this gentleman was going to have problems because of this, especially after he told them for the fourth time that he had to be very careful about the frequency of his meals so as to regulate his blood sugar in accordance with his medication. He also became very agitated because he was being met at his destination and he needed to contact the person involved to say that he was going to be late. The guard offered to 'phone the person for him but he couldn't remember the number. Eventually, running out of options, the staff moved on to see what they could do elsewhere after promising to check up on him as soon as possible to see if they could be of any practical help. About two minutes later he sighed, took an enormous lunch box out of his satchel and tucked in. Five minutes later he was on his mobile 'phone telling his friend that the train was going to be late and that the staff were useless.

It's people like that who put disability rights back a hundred years.


The Topiary Cow said...

Horrible people. Just horrible.


No Good Boyo said...

It would be the icing on the cake if, on arrival at his destination, he had stood up, folded the wheelchair, and walked off the train.