Saturday, 6 August 2011

Letters To First Great Western

Now the punter bites back.  A commuter on the British route between Oxford and London, whose trains are run by the First Great Western franchise, has started corresponding with the Managing Director of the railway every time he is delayed going to and from work.  He is also putting all the letters and the responses from the MD, Mark Hopwood, on a new blog called Letters To First Great Western.

The result is both hilarious and alarming, and it's an object lesson in both how a railway operator deals with a wide range of delays and how the passenger sees them.  The huge gulf between them is glaringly evident.  While the railway company struggles with its daily problems, most of them completely outside its control, trying to keep the train service functioning one way or the other, the commuter expects spare trains to be available at every station, and all lost time to be recovered regardless of the circumstances.

The commuter correspondent is Dominic Utton, a professional journalist lucky enough to still have a job with Rupert Murdoch's much maligned News International Group, even though he formerly wrote for the now defunct News of the World.  Mr Utton has designed each letter so that the time it takes to read it is equal to the length of the delay he suffered.  The letters themselves are hopeless, time wasting nonsense, but the replies from FGW are rather soulless, comprising of depressingly bland explanations of the causes of the troubles and of hopes for future improvement.  What is most instructive about them is the wide range of problems suffered by the railway and how long it takes to recover from them.

The delay suffered in reading this post is 2 minutes.

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