You know what it’s like – you’re a train guard and you think ‘I know, I’ll just go to Sainsbury’s for a can of Rubicon and a bag of Mini Cheddars’ just as rush hour hits.
That’s what one Southeastern Trains employee did yesterday, leaving passengers on the 19.53 to Hastings high and dry for an hour while he went on his break. Passengers were told over the tannoy that the reason for the delay was because ‘the guard could not be found.’
Soon afterwards, he was spotted in Sainsbury’s. He driver relayed that news to the passengers, who were understandably delighted. The delay caused the train to be cancelled and passengers had to be shunted onto another train.
When that train eventually left, it contained three train loads of delayed and harassed commuters who wanted to KILL HIM.
It’s the latest in a catalogue of disasters for Southeastern Trains, who came second from last in a recent Which! customer service poll. Furious customers have called them ‘a rip off’ and denounced them for their ‘poor service’.
Southeastern blabbed: ‘The shift timing was thrown out of place because of a knock-on effect of earlier delays, and we didn’t have a standby conductor available to work the train in his place.’
But Amber Rudd, MP for Hastings, took a dim view, and said: ‘It has been a very disappointing experience. Southeastern must up their game if they want to get their franchise renewed.’
The high speed train ferried 10.1 million travellers in 2013, up 2% on 2012.
The company has seen passenger numbers grow significantly over the last ten years, and has now carried 140 million since it started 20 years ago.
Eurostar also reported that its 2013 sales revenue had risen 7% to £857 million, while operating profit was up 4% to £54 million.
Eurostar chief executive Nicolas Petrovic reckons that “2013 has proved to be a record-breaking year for Eurostar and we are pleased with the sustainable growth in both traveller numbers and sales revenues reported today.
“After a period of economic uncertainty we are now starting to see more confidence in the business market. In comparison with this time last year when the overriding sentiment was still very cautious there are more encouraging trends and in some sectors there is clearly a greater appetite to invest and look for business.”
Before you book your summer holiday, it might be a good idea to acquaint yourself with the latest online travel scams – of which there are many.
According to a new report from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, travel-related internet scams are diddling customers out of about £7 million a year, and last year there were 5000 reported cases of holiday fraud.
So what should we be looking out for? Well, fake ads for apartments and villas are very popular amongst Internet fraudsters. 3 out of 10 victims fell for imaginary accommodation advertised on Facebook, so before you get the credit card out, it’s a good idea to check that your dream destination actually exists, and isn’t just a stock photo of some random guy’s house in Tenerife.
21% of cases involve people falling for airline ticket fraud, where people pay for tickets in advance, with the promise of a booking, and the booking is never made. And because these ‘companies’ rely on paperless ticketing, fraud is rife – particularly on flights to Africa.
The solution? Check, check and double check. ABTA says you should do a thorough background check of any holiday company before you book, and read all customer reviews in case there are any grievances or evidence that other victims that have been scammed.
Anyway. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
The airline are also planning to offer €10 flights to Boston and New York and $10 return seats as Ryanair “would fly from 12-14 major European cities to 12-14 major US destinations and a full service would begin within six months of Ryanair getting the aircraft to do so.”
However, this won’t be happening for another “four to five years”, but O’Leary assured that the company had a business plan in place for these scandalously cheap transatlantic flights. They say that the only thing holding the flights up is that the Arab states are buying up the supply of aircraft needed.
O’Leary says: “We can make money on 99 cent fares in Europe – not every seat will be €10 of course, there will also need to be a very high number of business or premium seats.”
Of course, there’s a lot of things to be sceptical about, but if they pull this off and you don’t mind the inevitable faff that comes with travelling with Ryanair, this could be a seriously wonderful thing if you’ve never been able to afford to visit The States before.
Getting a train from the airport to a nearby city is usually an expensive business, but it’s over to everyone’s favourite consumer gods, Which! to tell us which one sucks the most.
And the accolade for the crappiest airport train service goes to…THE GATWICK EXPRESS, which scored 60/100. Why? Because, as anyone who has ever been on it can testify, out of all the airport train services, it’s bad value for money at an always shocking £19.90 each way for a journey that lasts about half an hour. And they don’t even put on nice shiny trains.
The Heathrow and Stansted Express also scored low for value for money – but while the Stansted Express is a terrifying £23.40 each way, it scored higher marks for luggage space and comfort.
The best, easiest and cheapest London journey by far was the Docklands Light Railway from London City Airport. (And the DLR is also good because you can sit in the front seat and pretend to drive it.) But then, only business class types and golden gods can afford to fly from City airport.
Outside of London, regional airports scored highly for their train services, with the top spot occupied by Virgin Trains, whose cheap as chips and highly efficient rail service from Birmingham costs only £2.40.
Which! say that passengers need to complain more about the standard of train services from the big London airports, otherwise we’ll continue to be fleeced. Ricardo Lloyd spat:
‘There are unacceptably wide differences in the levels of customer satisfaction for airport trains, with many people especially unhappy about the high cost of some express services. Train companies must do more to listen to travellers’ views, which is why we’ve launched a campaign to Get Trains on Track, calling for a better response to complaints.’
Another Which! campaign. Don’t these people ever SLEEP?
Public transport eh? A wonderful thing and occasionally, hellish beyond belief. Concerning the latter, a survey has been conducted to see what we all hate most about riding the train or sitting on a bus.
With any luck, those dreadful annoying humans that cause such grievances will read this and realise how annoying they are.
It’s not going to happen is it?
Topping the list of annoying habits, people who try and jump on a train before everyone has got off have swatted aside all other bugbears. Other actions which grate us all include the scum who hog seats with their bags, the gits who read over your shoulder and those who sit in a reserved seat without a ticket. That last one doesn’t seem like a big deal if you’ve got the nerve to tell them to sling it. What’s wrong with you soft arses?
Other irritants included those who loudly talk on their mobile, people who get off with each other and those who still have their keypad tones on. The latter, in fairness, should be thrown off the train. While it is moving. Then there’s drunk passengers, children and people who eat smelly food, too.
Gareth Woodhouse from redspottedhanky.com said: ‘’Sometimes we can get a bit wrapped up in our own journeys or have a lot on our minds and it can make us less considerate of those around us. The ability to put up with things that annoy us is quite a British trait but it’s inevitable that certain behaviours test our patience more than others. Clearly those who can’t wait for the train to clear before boarding or people hogging seats can rile us but with a little more consideration and some common sense train travel can be comfortable and efficient for everyone.’’
Here are the top annoying habits:
1) People forcing themselves on when others are still getting off
2) Smelling bad
3) Drunken behaviour
4) People playing ringtones/music through speakers
5) Others kicking the back of your seat constantly
6) Parents not controlling their children, even when they’re grabbing at your face
7) People who don’t give up their seat for others who need it more
8) Playing music too loudly over headphones
9) Eating noisily
10) Putting feet on seats
For the rest of the list, click over the jump
Most of us have no idea what our rights are when it comes to applying for a refund after a cancelled or delayed train journey. Do we get compensation? Is it worth bothering to fill in a million forms only to be given a £5 voucher for your next soul-destroying adventure?
A report from the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) found that 75% of us know ‘not very much at all’ about the refund process or what compensation – if any – we’re entitled to. It also found that 74% of passengers felt that train companies do bugger all to provide information about compensation.
Passengers suggested a poster campaign and more prominently displayed information about compensation on websites, somewhat naively thinking that the rail companies might have our best interests at heart. At the moment, half of the 1000 passengers surveyed said they wouldn’t know where to find information on compensation even if they looked for it.
The ORR are now planning to develop a code of practice on clearer and more freely available information about rail compensation by the end of 2014, saying that passengers are ‘at the heart’ of the rail industry and are ‘crucial to its growth.’
Whether that will make rail companies treat us more like human beings rather than doomed pigs on the way to the abbatoir remains to be seen. But you never know – furious customers demanding compensation might be just the ticket to get trains running on time.
Which!!! have conducted their third annual train satisfaction survey and it is pretty obvious what the outcome is, considering that our train services are pretty lousy and, more pertinently, everyone loves moaning about trains.
The results showed that we have a very low level of satisfaction with most of the train companies. Which!!! came up with a score for each operator based on overall satisfaction and whether or not those polled would recommend it to a friend.
11 of the 19 companies looked at had a score of 50% or lower. Merseyrail trounced the opposition with a score of 70%, subsequently becoming the first train company to be a Which!!! Recommended Provider.
Here is a graphic containing the results.
They survey also found:
- Nearly one in five (16%) of all passengers experienced a delay on their last journey (this rose to 26% for commuters)
- One in five (21%) of commuters said they were likely to have stood on their last journey
- One in ten (11%) said toilets were not in good working order – this rose to 20% for London Midland Trains, 19% for Southeastern and 17% on First Capital Connect
- One in ten passengers (11%) told us they had cause to complain about the last journey they had taken, but three-quarters (75%) didn’t officially complain. Of those who did complain, more than half (55%) were dissatisfied with how it was handled.
Which!!! are now encouraging you lot to formally complain to train operators and share your findings with them on their website, so they can present their own findings to the train companies also.
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “It’s disappointing to see some train companies consistently falling down on the basics of customer service, with dirty and overcrowded carriages and toilets that don’t work. Seven rail franchises end in the next two years and we want to see passengers’ experiences put right at the heart of the tender process so companies respond to consumer expectations and can be held to account if they don’t.”
Have a look at the dedicated Which!!! site where you can gripe about trains by clicking here.
This six-week pilot scheme promises that the technology will allow staff to “deliver the industry’s most high tech and personalised customer service yet”.
Staff will use a purpose-built dispatch app built by SITA and the Virgin Atlantic passenger service system, in a bid to make everything more efficient and give customers more information when needed, provided you find yourself in the Upper Class Wing.
Dave Bulman, director of IT, Virgin Atlantic, said: “Our wearable technology pilot with SITA makes us the first in the industry to test how Google Glass and other wearable technology can improve the customer experience. We are upholding Virgin Atlantic’s long tradition of shaking things up and putting innovation at the heart of the flying experience.”
It also seems like staff will be able to walk around filming customers with Glass too and that all that lovely information about who is flying could be used for marketing gains and whatnot. If you see one of these concierges, be sure to ask them if they’re recording you at all.
It would seem that people are gradually going off the idea of cheap travel to an airfield three hours away from an actual destination, as poor old Ryanair has unveiled its biggest third-quarter loss in five years.
The number of passengers willing to be herded around like cattle actually increased by 6%, but revenues dropped as average fares declined 9%. However things are looking up now apparently, as the Irish airline claims that competitive pricing across Europe had eased off, and future bookings were up significantly.
Having issued two profit warnings last year, the airline lost £28m in the last three months of 2013, its worst performance since 2008.
Deputy chief executive Michael Cawley reckoned that the year suffered in comparison to strong figures in late 2012 boosted by the ‘post-Olympic bounce’. However their fiercest rival easyJet increased revenue 7.7% on passenger numbers growth of 4% in the same period.
To be fair to Ryanair, they are trying to turn their reputation around after being savaged as the worst of the 100 biggest brands by Which!!! magazine. They’ve been cutting baggage and boarding card fees, curbing aggressive selling and even allowing passengers to bring a second carry-on bag.
London bus drivers won’t be accepting cash fares from passengers as soon as this summer, according to Transport for London (TfL). This news comes on the back of only one third of people polled being supportive of the idea.
Soon, if you want to ride the bus, you will only be able to do so with an Oyster Card or with contactless debit or credit card payments. With other cities, like Manchester, moving toward similar systems to Oyster Cards, this could be rolling out across the country in the next couple of years.
The TfL say that only 1% of journeys are paid for with cash, so this isn’t going to affect many people and that it will provide millions in savings for the transport service.
Leon Daniels, managing director for TfL’s Surface Transport said: “The decision to stop accepting cash fares on London buses reflects the changing way that people pay for goods and services in our city, including journeys on the bus network.”
The great news for the people of London is that they will now be able to travel in complete silence and avoid talking to anyone at all from now on, which is something they seem to glumly revel in.
The Office of Fair Trading has managed to secure online hotel bookers a nice little deal, after 2 online travel agents agreed to offer discounts on room rates – following their investigation into competition practices. The deal involves Booking.com and Expedia, alongside Intercontinental Hotels.
However, there are 2 things you need to know first before you dive in and book that dirty weekend in Paris. First you need to have signed up to booking.com and Expedia, (or Intercontinental Hotels) and you will need to have booked one UNDISCOUNTED hotel room before you can be part of the scheme.
After that, you will be eligible for discounts. Hurray!
The move comes after the OFT investigated Expedia and Booking.com for entering into separate deals with Intercontinental Hotels, which restricted their ability to discount room only rates.
Said Ann Pope from the OFT: ‘The travel industry, fuelled by the internet, has seen significant changes in recent years, and we want to ensure those changes continue to work in consumers’ interests.
That is why we are pleased to have secured this outcome which, by allowing online travel agents and hotels to offer discounts, which should increase competition and mean travellers across Europe can benefit from reductions on hotel accommodation throughout the UK.’
Yeah, yeah, whatever. We can’t hear you over the sound of going on holiday.
New trains are going to appear on British tracks, but a stir was caused after a load of foreign manufacturers started bidding for the jobs. Just how many jobs are going to be generated for British workers? Well, that’s the question on the lips of a director at German giant Siemens.
See, the Government (less arsed about British jobs) awarded Siemens a £1.5bn contract to build 1,140 train carriages and, noticing the uproar, the Germans stated that they would create 2,000 jobs in the UK with this work.
And this is what they’ll be building. By the looks of it, an old train with a shell on top.
Steve Scrimshaw, managing director of rail systems for Siemens, said: “There is definitely a big push to look at what you can do to help regenerate the economy. Going forward, that focus is going to be on even more. If you look at what London Underground and Crossrail have done, they are all trying to demonstrate the spend in the UK market.”
The new Thameslink carriages (due 2016) are being built in Germany but many components are being sourced from the UK.
Rail minister, Stephen Hammond, unveiled the new train and took a swipe at Europe in the process, saying that no-one can guarantee big contracts like this can stay in the UK thanks to European procurement laws.
Still, doesn’t matter because no-one will be able to afford train tickets soon, so they should probably spend the money on fixing the roads for us all to drive on instead.
[Yes, the headline doesn't quite work, but we were determined to crowbar in something that sounded like a train was made from spunk]
Bad news if you’re going to Europe with BA, Ryanair or Easyjet– Italian and Portuguese air traffic controllers are downing tools, leaving you stranded on the tarmac in a big orange glorified bus with wings.
Easyjet have warned of ‘significant impact’ to their flights, and Ryanair have cancelled 80 flights from today – but only 4 of them are in and out of the UK.
But the air traffic controllers are at least trying to be a bit democratic about their strike this time, and have drawn up a very helpful schedule. Italian air traffic control are on strike between 1pm and 5 pm local time, while Portuguese air traffic control are on strike between 7am and 9am and 2pm until 4pm local time. (Gives them a bit of time to go to the shops and have a coffee, etc.)
On their website, Easyjet has promised to let you know flight developments via email, and customers can check their online Flight Tracker. Some flights to Lisbon and Milan Malpensa have been re-scheduled to avoid the strike times.
Meanwhile, BA said: ‘We have re-timed a number of flights and are using larger aircraft where possible to help more customers from cancelled flights fly to where they need to be. We are advising customers on short-haul services to keep checking the very latest information on our website as the nature of the industrial action may change throughout the day.’
Anyway, if you’re Italy or Portugal-bound today or tomorrow, good luck, and don’t forget to bring your bumper book of Sudoku for the long wait.