I left my iPad on a train last week. I had a very busy day and didn’t get the chance to report the loss to Chiltern Railways until I got to Dublin that evening.
The online lost property page suggested it would be at least 10 days before I heard whether it had been handed in. So imagine my delight when Kala from Chiltern called me ten minutes later to tell me they had it.
It was just the latest example of Chiltern Railways’ outstanding customer service culture. Kala told me her day finished at 7pm, but she decided to call me (at 7.30) when she saw my online report to give me the good news.
Thank you so much, Kala!
I think you did well but a lot depends on the honesty of your fellow passengers and comparatively little on the railway.If you had been travelling on the Midland Mainline I can pretty well guarantee you never have seen it again.
You may well be right, Barry!
For many years (let’s just say more than 20), I commuted from mid-Sussex into London. For most of that time, the fassett and most relaxing way of doing this was to make my way to Gatwick Airport and catch the Gatwick Express to London Victoria station. I did this for long enough to have travelled on the old slam-door trains (class 73), then the “modern” rolling stock that most people still associate with the route (class 460), and subsequently the appalling ex-South West Trains class 442 rolling stock.Up until late 2008, the Gatwick Express service was probably the best train service in the country. It was certainly the best train service I have ever used in the UK. On my way home I would travel across London to Victoria, and would relax as I walked onto platforms 13 or 14 where the train would be waiting. Yes – I would relax when I got to the train, not when I got off it. The rolling stock was clean and comfortable, the reliability very good, the staff on board a delight. And then the franchise changed. The new owner, Southern, took over and put in place changes that the Department For Transport had previously announced. The day the service was extended to run to Brighton, rather than terminating at Gatwick Airport, was the day I remember the onboard staff being in tears. The service changed dramatically for the worse that day, and under Southern it has got worse ever since.What has happened?• Well, the rolling stock that customers liked (the class 460 stock) was replaced by ex-South West Trains units that were (and still are) shabby, dirty, uncomfortable and unreliable. They were/are so bad that I saw evidence of even the staff having vandalised them with graffiti that very few people other than staff would have understood (I had travelled on the service for so long that I understood the meaning).• The service was extended to Brighton, which means that travellers using the airport have to embark/disembark quickly rather than being able to take their time. When embarking at the airport, they have to get their luggage onto trains that are often already busy with grumpy commuters from Brighton.• The staff became demotivated, due to changes brought in by the new owners (as well as because they now had to face miserable commuters doing the daily grind from Brighton, rather than normally happy-to-be-there travellers from the airport).• Ticketing became confused, with different rules applying depending on where passengers were travelling to.• The onboard trolley staff were outsourced to Rail Gourmet, destroying any link with the rail company and removing any pride in the service. The quality of the trolley staff went downhill. I had never had anybody purposely try to over-charge me prior to the outsourcing, but after that it happened multiple times.• Automated barriers went up at Victoria and Gatwick, which was always a crazy idea for a service that is aimed at airport users with associated luggage. In the morning rush-hour the barriers cause chaos at Victoria.• The onboard revenue staff were removed, to hang around, demotivated, by the barriers at Victoria and London, waiting for the company to make them redundant. With no revenue staff on board, the convenience of being able to buy a ticket on board was removed, with passengers having to go through the chaos of ticket buying that is Gatwick Airport station in the morning.• With no onboard revenue staff, any control over use of first class compartments fell apart.• On the rare occasion that ticket inspectors got on after those changes, they would be generic Southern inspectors, barely recognisable as being staff. On a number of occasions I heard them being incredibly rude to passengers, to the extent that had they been recorded I believe they could have faced not just disciplinary proceedings, but criminal charges.And that’s just the start. The service went from probably the best in the country, to something worse than a typical Southern commuter service, but at a premium price.After 20+ years of using the Gatwick Express on a near-daily basis, I gave up my London job earlier this year to avoid having to commute into London any longer. If the service of just 5 or 6 years ago was still in place I would probably still be working in London, but Southern turned what was a relaxing part of my day into an absolute hell that was not a healthy thing to be doing regularly. The London Underground in rush hour was a more relaxing part of my journey than the Gatwick Express for the last year or so.When Southern managers are questioned about this, they initially try denial, then when pressed pass the blame onto the Department for Transport. From the customer’s viewpoint, the Department for Transport made some horrifically bad decisions, but Southern exacerbated them. The consequence is that the service has been ruined, passengers have been driven off it, and neither passengers nor staff understand why. And all of this has happened just before the Olympics, when the airport and rail service will probably be busier than they have ever been.So, what is the answer? Southern consumer panels certainly aren’t. The answer has to come from the new owners of Gatwick Airport (who have spent a fortune successfully improving the airport), from the London tourist industry, and from politicians kicking the a**es of the airheads at the Department for Transport. Other than that, a white-knight, possibly in the shape of Richard Branson, could be given the franchise for the Gatwick Express service, and be allowed to run it as a business, possibly in partnership with the airport owners, unconstrained by stupid policies from the Department For Transport (so no more running to Brighton).Posted 28 April 2012 at VA:F [1.9.22_1171]1 – 1