This is part of the GEOGUESSR 1 series of posts.
OK, I’m going to skip a little bit of our story now, but in short, we travelled on the train from Colchester Town to Colchester, than boarded the mainline train from Colchester to Diss. We were pretty pleased with our day, and all was going well in terms of the train connections and times.
Then the story gets interesting. And, I’m going to admit here and now that I’m a Greater Anglia fanboy. Most people pick a sports team, an entertainment personality or a television programme. No, I pick a bloody railway company. I seriously need to get out more, or more safely, stay in more. In terms of their operation, they’re a forward thinking and dynamic company, although sadly things seem to have been going askew with their customer service recently (although not with the ground level staff I’d add).
Now, I’m also going to admit here that I’m not going to upload everything that I have, which includes videos and a larger collection of photos than I realised that I took. The video is of a 67-year old man with heart problems (I know this as he told everyone) who (along with others) physically blocked the rail replacement bus from leaving, complaining angrily and loudly that he has a heart problem and Greater Anglia have repeatedly done this to him.
I have a dilemma here because journalism runs through me quite deeply and I’m the only one who videoed this, but I don’t want to show a video clip that no doubt the media would willingly run, but which might embarrass the individual involved and does no good for the rail network. And I don’t want this blog to take on the morals of the Daily Express.
I have informed Greater Anglia of the incident and although I’m satisfied by their response, I’m also not impressed enough to totally ignore this incident. I’m not impressed by the management decisions at Greater Anglia over the last year and I think they’ve damaged the reputation of the rail network with some of their decisions. And also, and primarily, the point of the day was to report back on an adventure, however irrelevant it is to most people.
So, this is the story.
The train arrived into Diss on time, with around twenty minutes until the bus replacement got into Norwich. It became clear that one coach clearly wasn’t going to be enough to deal with a train that had around twelve carriages. But, we waited in the line for the coach and boarded because we thought there might be empty seats at the rear of the coach. There weren’t, it was standing room only.
Now, the coach driver was letting on as many people as could fit. I’m not going to stray into telling a coach operator on what they should do, but I will say that it shouldn’t be for passengers to tell a coach driver that he’s carrying more people than is legal to do so. In the defence of the coach driver, perhaps he was overwhelmed with the numbers and never intended to carry the number of passengers he had already let on.
So, Nathan and I (along with 30 or so other people) disembarked. I will say, as I sadly follow these things, that the person responsible at Greater Anglia for bus replacement services has said at recent meetings that they’re pleased with how more rail replacement buses now have wi-fi and power points. I’m slightly bemused by this, it simply is no good to worry about that if there are no systems at Greater Anglia to actually remember to put a bus on in the first place. And, I will add, the staff on site said that this wasn’t a case of not enough buses, the service had been forgotten about.
I’m going to shorten this saga a little by saying that most customers were just resigned to the wait and remained perfectly happy. But a handful weren’t (which is fair enough), and the coach driver was doing his best to deflect the criticism. Most of the complaints being made to him, and another staff member going off duty, were unfair as he wasn’t responsible for this. He came to work to drive a bus, he wasn’t in charge of the logistics of this little operation.
I’m also going to skate over some of what happened between the passengers and the coach driver. This is partly because at this stage a member of Greater Anglia staff appeared and he was calm, confident and professional. I liked his approach and he called on the bus which Greater Anglia hold in reserve and told everyone that it would be here in thirty minutes, and although that time estimate wasn’t quite right, it wasn’t far off. He also told customers that they could reboard the train if they were cold, as it wasn’t departing back to London for a while.
However, I can’t miss out from the story that passengers tried to block the coach that was there from leaving, by standing in front and behind it. There was a danger of injury, but none took place, so there’s no point of writing about what could have been.
And I think this is where I’ll end this part of the story. Rail companies shouldn’t have to be told that if a mainline train isn’t running it’s not acceptable to forget to put a coach on. It was avoidable, but it at least gave me a story for the blog. And triggered a delay repay claim, so that’s a bonus. We also got to go home on a Megabus as well, as that was the replacement coach that was used.
I think this post is a very fair compromise between not embarrassing any individual (other than me, but I do that nearly all the time with my general stupidity) and not bringing the rail network into total disrepute. And since only about six people will read this, it doesn’t much matter…..