Monday, 30 April 2012

Worst Late Western

For those of you who are regular readers or follow me on Twitter you will know that First Great Western, or as I call them Worst Late Western, and I do not always see eye to eye on what classifies as 'service'. Over Easter I had a particularly horrendous journey that beggared belief. I wrote a very long letter of complaint that got me compensation from the company, below is a copy of what I sent to them. It would seem that slightly sarcastic complaint letters do in fact work.

'Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to complain about the service I experienced on X 2012 while travelling with your company.
As a fairly regular user of your company I have become accustom to expecting a fairly poor level of service – I have yet to travel on one of your trains and actually arrive at my destination on time. However, my experiences on X hit an all time low.

I was on the Y train from London Paddington to Cheltenham Spa, a journey which should have lasted around two hours and involve only one train. As I will outline below this was far from the case.
The train departed from London Paddington at Y but between London and Twyford there was a fault with the train causing us to be delayed by around 10 minutes. We were then held at Twyford while an engineer was contacted, eventually we left Twyford but were put under a 50 mph speed limit, causing us to arrive at Reading well behind schedule.

While waiting on the platform at Reading it was announced that any customers who were travelling as far as Didcot Parkway or Swindon should switch to another train that was due to leave before us, but all other customers were to remain on the train. After about 10 minutes the train manager announced that our service was now cancelled and everyone was to leave the train. No information of how to continue my journey from Reading was given, all First Great Western staff mysteriously disappeared and no apology was offered. The only member of staff I found was too busy to answer any of my questions. 

Eventually I managed to find a fellow passenger who had been in this position many times before and was able to check the details of a potential route for me on his iPhone. By the time I managed to find a train heading to Swansea via Swindon the train was so packed that there was standing room only and was more crowded than the London Underground during rush hour. The only reason I was able to get onto the train was because one of the passengers already on the train managed to get people to move along the carriage, otherwise I found have been stranded at Reading. Again, no First Great Western staff were around to help people trying to get onto the train. 

Between Reading and Swindon I was stood in between two carriages crushed in between my fellow passengers, which was dangerous enough, but further still the bellows link had holes in it meaning that rain water was leaking on to passengers and onto the floor making it very slippy. It was announced on this train that at Swindon a train was being held for all the customers who were travelling on through to Cheltenham. However, this turned out to be a two carriage shuttle that was then meant to house all the passengers from the cancelled 10 carriage train. Between Swindon and Cheltenham the only way I was able to board the train was by sitting in the luggage rack.

After the train had left Gloucester, the penultimate stop, a member of First Great Western staff did appear, but only to check the tickets of those remaining. Said member of staff seemed surprised by the frosty reception he received from those still on board and again offered no apology for the delay to the service.
What was meant to be a journey on one train lasting around 2 hours turned into a journey on three different trains and was delayed at every stage. For a country that is due to host the Olympics and actively encourages members of the public to use public transport as supposed to driving I am in disbelief that such a terrible service could happen. So notorious is your company for its lack of service that it has been deemed Worst Late Western among my peers.

The only reason that I continue to use your service is that no alternative is available. I want a full refund on my tickets for this journey and an apology, something that I failed to receive at any point on my journey. I will also be sending copies of this letter to my MP, to the Minister for Transport – Justine Greening and to the Olympics Minster. If this is the level of service that is presently offered in April, what on earth will your service be like in July and August time while the Olympics is actually taking place a time when the United Kingdom will be on show to the rest of the World.

I have enclosed a copy of my tickets for this journey and I anticipate your response and my refund shortly,
Yours sincerely,
Laura-Rose Saunders'

Since posting this letter I have heard back from Worst Late Western and the Ministry of Transport, but nothing from the Olympics Committee or my MP so much for him working for me then.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Better Off with Boris

As May 3rd draws ever closer Londoners are being bombarded with literature about which candidate they should support in the Mayoral Election. Despite there being 7 candidates essentially this is a two horse race between the incumbent Mayor and Conservative Party Candidate Boris Johnson and the former Mayor and Labour Party Candidate Ken Livingstone.

While Boris has a manifesto for the various different areas that effect Londoners the cornerstone of his campaign rests in his 9 point plan for London. Boris’ 9 point plan includes the freezing of the Mayoral Part of Council Tax, the creation of 200,000 new jobs in the next four years, the reduction of Tube delays by 30% by 2015 and the placing of 1,000 more bobbies on the beat. I won’t bore you with the whole plan but to read it in full click here.

Over the last four years London has seen a lot of change but perhaps the most noticiable change to London is the introduction of the Boris Bikes – a scheme that allows Londoners to hop on a bike and cycle around London easily. It came as little surprise that Boris was in support of this scheme as he himself is an avid cycler. Speaking at the launch Boris is quoted as saying; ‘In 1904, 20 per cent of journeys were made by bicycle in London. I want to see a figure like that again.’ With the cost of fuel constantly rising there is a high chance that Boris’ wish will come true and it is great that the provision of a cycling scheme is already established within our capital.

The main contender to Boris in the London 2012 race is previous Mayor Ken Livingstone. The rivalry between these two dates back to the previous election in 2008 and it would seem that the tension between the two candidates is just as strong as before. In a recent radio interview the issue of tax evasion arose, something that Ken has been accused of on several occasions, this issue became so heated that the pair nearly came to blows. After the interview it was established that Boris has paid full income tax on his earnings while Ken has made use of tax avoidance schemes and owes roughly £50, 000 in unpaid taxes. Sadly this is not the only false accusation that has been leveled against Ken to see a full compilation click here.

Since being elected in 2008 Boris has kept 91% of his pre-election promises including lowering the crime rate by 10.8%, upgrading public transport in London and freezing Council Tax. In addition he has saved money by scrapping things like The Londoner, which cost £3.1 million a year. Boris’ record speaks for itself – after four years only 10 of his promises have not be fulfilled. Boris himself has said ‘it is vital Londoners
can trust their mayor to deliver on what they said they will.’ Something that he has proved he can do.

Polling day is but a mere 4 days away but there is still time to make an informed decision about who you should vote for on May 3rd. However, as far as I concerned London truly will be better off waking up on May 4th with Boris Johnson as its Mayor. Thus, for all the aforementioned reasons I will be Backing Boris on May 3rd and I hope that I have convinced you to do the same.

(can also been on my other site Voices of the 7 Billion)