Archive for March, 2013

Take the frustration out of reporting train delays

Train delays can be an extremely frustrating experience. It is not just the time that you lose at the end of your journey (work time or time at home) but also the delay itself, particularly missed connections or a lack of information. Train operators have improved their communications significantly with tools such as Twitter and Facebook in recent years, but there is still room for improvement when services go wrong.

When it comes to complaining about train delays, Train Operators need to know which services were you intending to travel on and what actually happened?

What was your plan?

  • Date
  • Journey
  • Times (including any connections and where they should have been made)

What actually happened?

  • Date
  • Journey
  • Times (again, including connections)
  • Where the delays happened
  • Any reasons given at the time

In addition, it assists operators if you can provide any comments on the experience. Include any areas where information was lacking, where the service could be improved¬† – or even where it worked well. This helps operators identify areas where they can improve, and also recognise which processes do not need changing. It’s always good to make sure the higher management know about staff who are doing a good job in difficult circumstances, too.

Once you’ve put together this information, you can of course send it to the train operator via FixMyTransport.

I use the notebook tool on my phone to record information that I think will be useful. It allows me to note events as they happen, and add thoughts about what is going on. I can then alter it later into a structure that a representative at the train operator would understand, and be able to act on.

Operators will ask you for your ticket if there is an opportunity for offering you compensation. If you send your tickets to them, you should take a copy first: either photocopy them, scan or take a picture. This means that you still have a record in case they are lost or misplaced.

What about after I have asked for a train refund?

There are two complaints that we see on FixMyTransport after passengers have submitted a refund request.

They are:

I have not received a response

If you have not received a response, it depends on how long has elapsed since you submitted your complaints. Most operators aim to respond to all complaints within twenty working days. If this time has passed you should contact Passenger Focus.

They have lost the tickets I sent them

If they have lost your tickets, you should have taken a copy of them and you should be able to send that copy to them. If you have not taken a copy, my advice would be to look for any further proof such as a receipt or bank statement. You should discuss if there are any options for using this as evidence.

I hope this post makes it easier for you to report delays on your train journeys. If you have any comments, leave a note below. Or you can email them to us, Tweet us or post them on Facebook.

Image by Piblet

Train announcements

Image by Kitty DuKaneThis train is formed of… six carriages. We would like to remind passengers that a no-smoking policy is in force on this train. Please ensure that you have taken all your belongings with you when you exit the train.

Transport Minister Norman Baker has spoken against frequent announcements on train journeys. Well-known transport commentator Christian Wolmar also finds them intolerable. I can sympathise – in my commuting days, I got quite fed up with the robotic voice repeating the same announcements at every single one of the many station stops on my daily route.

Clearly, announcements play an important role for those with impaired vision – but need there be quite so many of them? In the comments on the BBC report of the story, contributors point out that many are redundant – like ‘this is a no-smoking train’, when smoking is banned on all trains these days. Or ‘thank you for choosing to travel with [this train company]’, when there’s only one operator in the district.

FixMyTransport users get exercised about train announcements, too – not to mention on buses, the Tube and on station platforms. Some are for them; many are against. Here’s a small selection.

On Virgin’s Glasgow to London line: “Honest, I won’t sue the train company if it neglects to tell me how to blow my nose.”

On the Bakerloo line: “At 11 pm, do we really need to be told to ‘alight here for London Zoo’?”

On the Jubilee line: “Loud, irritating, patronising, tedious, whinging, stupid, pointless, endlessly repeated announcements”.

We have several complaints about Scotrail’s announcements, including this one: “When this is your life 5 days a week, 49 weeks a year it makes for an unpleasant, stressful and depressing commute”.

And the other side of the issue:

On London Midland’s Birmingham to Lichfield route: “The problem mainly exists at night when it is hard to see station signs due to the bright lighting on the train”.

On Tramlink 3 in Croydon: “I am partially sighted, and this resulted in my boarding the wrong tram yesterday and wasting time going to Blackhorse Road.”

Given that routine announcements may be a necessity for some and an annoyance to others, I’d like to suggest an opt-in method to hear them, like plug-in aeroplane headphones. No need to thank me, train operators of Britain – my real reward will come when we can all travel in peace.

Image: Kitty DuKane (CC)

 

No Dogs on the Bus

On the Bus in Aberdeen by Michael Jung

If you’ve tried to travel with a dog, you’ll be aware that bus drivers sometimes take exception to canine passengers.¬† It’s a problem that crops up regularly on FixMyTransport* – see these reports, for example:

We’re sure dogs can be a pain for bus drivers – but to be quite honest, they haven’t seen the half of it. Just for fun, we took a quick look through Flickr’s Creative Commons, where, we have to say, dogs are the thin end of the wedge.

We’d love to see how the transport providers of the UK would cope with these passengers… and we await our first ‘duck on the bus’ report with anticipation.

Duck on the Bus by Todd Mecklem

Image: Duck on the Bus by Todd Mecklem

Unusual passenger on a bus in Portland, Oregon. He looks happy enough… although it is hard to tell if it’s actually a stuffed duck.

Cat on Bus by Andrew Bulhak

Image: Cat on Bus by Andrew Bulhak

This fellow is apparently Bob, the same cat who achieved some notoriety by riding the Tube. And here he is on the bus. Doing something that would definitely get a human passenger thrown off.

Ethiopian cargo service by Evgeni Zotov

Image: Ethiopian Cargo Service by Evgeni Zotov

Sheep on the roof? Can’t see it on the number 37 bus to Clapham, but in some parts of the world it’s absolutely standard.

Parrot on a Bus by Claire Taylor

Image: Parrot on a Bus by Claire Taylor

Pesky birds! They’ll travel on the bus if you let them… and if you don’t they’ll find a way, anyway:

Hitchhiker by John Sullivan

Image: Hitchhiker by John Sullivan

A Visitor by Joachim Probst

Image: A Visitor by Joachim Probst

You know what? Dogs seem pretty innocuous when compared to a camel trying to board the bus. Maybe this is an image to print out, carry in your wallet, and show to the driver next time they try to stop Rover from boarding.

 

*As you can see from the operators’ replies to these complaints, the regulations about the carriage of animals vary from company to company. Dogs will generally not be carried if they are dirty, threatening or annoying to other passengers, or roaming free – but these are all down to the driver’s discretion.

TfL’s guidelines, for example, are here. Rather magnificently, they include the line ‘dogs must be carried on the escalator’, the basis of one of this country’s corniest jokes.

Top image credit: Michael Jung