Friday, 11 January 2008

And God said unto Noah....

Fear not, this post does not have any religious connotations, it's just a glib way for me to segue into the events of today. I will respond to the commenst on my last post as and when I can, but a couple of things cropped up today, as you may have noticed.

I'm having flashbacks to 20 July last year. For the heavans opened again today and there was flooding. Oh so much flooding. Bristol, underwater with reports of snow storms (!), some of South Wales under water, flooding by Chipping Sodbury, and by Flax Bourton in Devon. This was entirely unexpected. The weather had been rough, but we did not expect to have free flowing water down both main lines at Wooton Bassett. The water flooded the lineside equipment and caused multiple track circuit failures, most notably at patchway. When I look ed at the TV above my desk and saw the amount of red on it, to say I was disheartened would be an understatement.

I left work at 4.30 because there was not much I could do about the situation and the top train in the list, the 11.15 from Paddington to Cardiff had just hit Newport. 204 minutes delayed, all because of flooding.

I know the vast majority of you who read this were caught up in the floods last year so I won't bore you by discussing it all over again. Those of you who got caught in this do have my sympathy, for what it's worth.

I'm not sure if this will be as big a deal as last July, but I can guess that, once again, it is going to take a while to clear things up. Hopefully, most of this can be done over the weekend and we can get back to normal next week.

The second issue I would like to address is the impending strike by the RMT members. My anonymous commenter, (the last comment on 'Oh Dear, Oh Dear') suggested that this is politically motivated as a supposed final straw for the DfT who will finally revoke the FGW franchise.

I'm not sure what the RMT's motivations for this are. I don't beleive that it is over managers performing the duties of guards, that is merely an emergency measure proposed by our lovely COO to cover some trains if the strike goes ahead. Managers don't normally like to get out there unless they have too. It's also, I'm almost certain not about Sunday working, as the official line goes.

I think that this is politically motivated, but it is not intended to affect the DfT. (Let's face it, as long as the DfT gets their franchise payment, does anyone actually believe, based on thier actions so far, that they give a toss). This is intended to appeal to FGW management to show just how low morale is for the vast majority of staff. From what I hear, those who like their jobs are in a minority.

I think this is intended as a protest against the management structure at FGW which, quite frankly, is over-complicated with far too many layers and nobody really knowing what their role actually encompasses. It's a protest against stupid decisions, impotent management and far too many demands placed on far too few people.

I don't mean to romanticise this because, it's a pain in the ass. Andrew Haines wrote a letter to the RMT members asking them not to strike. He got responses. I read a few of these, for example, a conductor who was asked to work a 1 carriage train from Weymouth, left 60 people on the platform and got an hour of verbal abuse for his troubles and was ignored when he pointed out that this 1 carriage train would form the busiest commuter train from Bristol and should be reinforced.

I can see their point much of the time. It does suck having to deal with frustrated passengers when it's not your fault and their's nothing you can do about it. Maybe this kind of a wake up call is what is needed. I fear though that, in the long run, it will make bugger all difference.



Anonymous said...

Just a general question - how long should we expect to wait for a response to compensation claims? I'm emailed off my first according to the instructions on the first great western site just before christmas, and sent a form for another for a 2.5hr delay on the 27th Dec.

Still no word on either, how long should it take?

Anonymous said...

mine arrived at the weekend, having been claimed 19th december

chris from nailsea said...

Thanks again for your very useful input, Insider!
(Just a gentle correction, if I may: Flax Bourton is actually in North Somerset - between Weston super Mare and Bristol.)

Tim said...

Flooding was in entirely predictable places (Wooton Basset junction, Sodbury Tunnel / cutting, Dauntsey Bank etc). Is is really impossible to raise the track by a few extra inches in such places? I know that this is not FGW's responsibilty, but I'd be interested to know if flood-proofing the railway is at least theoretically possible.

I was travelling back from London to Bath Friday evening. I left Padd at 1845 and arrived at Bath at 2315, three hours late (including a 1 hours wait at Swindon station). I wish I hadn't been inconveninced but I have nothing but praise for the FGW Staff who dealt with me. Thank you to the customer service desk people at Swindon who appologised for the closeure of the station cafe and pointed me in the direction of a chippy outside the station. Thanks for the barrier staff who cheerfully let me out of the station to do this, and thanks to the TM on the Paddington to BTM train (ex-Padd at 2000, I think - a youngish chap with a goatee) who kept us all very well informed on the slow crawl to Chippenham, giving us updates of road closures and offering the use of the buffet car phone. I hope you got home eventually

mockney said...

Have been reading your blog for a while, heartened to read you've kept going since some of the nasty comments. Thought you might want to take a look at the latest post on my blog,
It's a rant (I know how easy it is to go off into one!) about the poor coverage of the line's problems by Swindon's only daily paper. Thought it might be of interest.

As a recovering former FGW employee, I have huge respect for anyone who's still there considering how low morale is at the moment.

Keep going though! This site is a vital resource,


Anonymous said...

Just want to say its nice to see someone on the inside commenting on the general state of bad management at FGW. BR was better in every respect, a lot more training and a determination to get passengers to their destination. I am not saying the long suffering staff are not doing this, but it does feel like the eye on the ball is looking elsewhere at the moment.

I've been working in the rail industry for 15 years so I can understand some of the frustrations. The flooding was bad - I was delayed for 1.5 hours going through 'bassett and noticed HST's going on the up at full speed which I thought was a bit odd. Why didn't FGW shove us off at Swindon and get replacement road transport. Oh well another compensation form being sent off - but probably won't get far - as its an act of God. Keep up the good work...