Not like any other meeting you've been to...
|Left to right: A bloke and Charles Horton MBA, managing director Southeastern Railways, exiting a Meet the Manager meeting by the 'back door'. Apologies for photo quality.|
I have only ever called Southeastern customer services twice as it's like talking to a sponge. On one occasion I called to enquire as to why my train into work was late every day, sometimes by up to 40 minutes, or was simply cancelled. What I could not grasp was that mine wasn't the only train (if only it were, it would solve the London Bridge congestion issues) that was late, yet Southeastern's statistics indicated that it was some sort of European benchmark for punctuality. The person at the other end sympathised and said it was "probably due to congestion." He asked me to keep a diary of times my train arrived. I did that and it made for astounding reading, no matter which train I got it was always late into London.
So, one day I turned up at Cannon Street (late) and there was a Meet the Manager session. I wasn't planning to attend but my eyes met Mr Horton's and a woman at his side beckoned me over. I thought I'd tell him about the lateness issue and show him my diary. He cast barely a glance at it and muttered something about getting new equipment. I remarked that in 70s my old dad had said after a news item on British Rail that it could have everything replaced tomorrow and it would still be a disaster, and that despite my disrespect for anything my parents said then, I now realised he was absolutely right. I mentioned this to Mr Horton, and that I had seen new trains, new signals and new 'information' systems introduced since I started commuting and it was still terrible - and cripplingly over-priced. He said that his message to me and my dad was "it's very difficult running a railway," and then I was dismissed.
Two things wrong here: 1) run something else then, and 2) I'd need a medium to tell the old man that.
Getting carried away
|A rather incapictated gentleman is 'handled' at Cannon Street.|
Just a few nights before I had been trying to get to my train but, as happens frequently, the barriers would not recognise my season ticket. I asked the chap to help (he was talking to his railway mate) and he eventually came over. I said that I couldn't get in and he said that I'd broken the barrier. I thought he was joking and laughed politely but he insisted that I had broken the barrier, walked off and wouldn't let me in!
I said the obvious, I've got a valid season ticket, etc, but to no avail so I did what any 15-stones person would do and hurled myself at the barrier which did then give way. There was a lot of shouting and he walked after me for a bit but gave up about six carriages up the platform (not many Southeastern trains have more than six carriages).
I abhor physical violence and I hate it when I see people being abusive to Southeastern staff (yes, really) and I have even stopped someone acting like this (I'd had a few so I was being brave). But you have to wonder at the intentions of staff who deliberately antagonise passengers who then must walk past the posters warning them about not being abusive to railway staff. We should have our own posters.