Sorry seems to be the hardest word.

I’m writing this on the 19.12 from Reading to Swansea – delivering me (hopefully) at ReesAcres Cymru en route. I have just enjoyed a excellent day at the Henley Regatta, many thank to my hosts. As ever my PA coordinated flights, trains and hotels for me, bless you. I was booked on the 10.30 from Reading, due to alight at the first stop, Twyford, to change for Henley. 

GWR are generally an excellent rail provider (to use the contemporary biz speak). I won’t mention the third world toilets on my current train – what is it about train lavs. that make them so difficult to keep functioning? I’m sure Brunel would have sorted them out had he lived beyond the tender age of 53.

Back to Reading, the train was delayed until 10.40 – no problem I thought.

It’s a journey I have made a couple of times before and was surprised that I was able to spend so long reading the complimentary newspaper before we came to a halt at….Slough. We had passed through Twyford, Maidenhead, Taplow and Burnham, all fine places in their own way but not when you are viewing them from the unintended inside of a rail carriage.

As you can imagine I wasn’t on my own, there were probably 50-60 others making the same journey. When we alighted at Slough we wondered what had happened and asked the GWR guard on the platform.

After ensuring the train left safely to continue its journey to Ealing Broadway he retreated to his customer service bunker to investigate. It turned out that the train was 10 minutes late leaving Reading and so, in order to make up time, they decided to omit the four scheduled halts at Twyford, Maidenhead, Taplow and Burnham. Presumably the “no stops” have less of a weighting in their corporate KPIs than late arrivals.

We duly crossed over the tracks to the other platform and caught the next train back in the other direction, hoping that no reason arose to leave out our scheduled stops. It didn’t.

I understand that s**t happens and decisions must be made to catch up with schedules. I understand that even the best of railways have problems – and GWR are pretty good as UK railways go. 

What I don’t understand is why nobody had the good manners to apologise to us for what had happened. To carry on with the in carriage visual display that “the next stop is Twyford” even when we were parked at Slough. For nobody to bother to make an announcement that “we are sorry for the cock up and if you cross to platform 5 you can continue your journey”.

As it was we were all p’d off with the lack of communication and apologies. 

When something goes wrong – apologise. It diffuses the situation. It helps right the wrong. It leaves less of a bad taste.

Superstitious…moi?

Two journeys (so far) today. Seat numbers allocated at random, should I be concerned?

Remind me of the date….

 

 

 

 

 

The Monday Morning Quote #487

“As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life—and travel—leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt”

Anthony Bourdain

Of airports and airlines.

I fly a lot – into, out of and around the UK. My favourite airport by a country mile is Cork which is friendly and efficient. I enjoy departures from there (this evening I am off to Newcastle) and above all I look forward to returning home, unfortunately not until late next Monday evening.

My least favourite airports in the UK are Edinburgh, badly designed, unfriendly and uncomfortable, Manchester where the leaky walkways, and the miserly limit of 60 minutes free wi-fi (increased from 30!!), speak volumes but it is Stansted which for dedication to giving travellers a hard time leaves everywhere else in their slipstream.

The last time I was there (Saturday June 2nd) I was amazed to find that they have not only found a way to make the queues for security even longer and more unpleasant but are actually boasting that they are #5TimesFaster – a hashtag that is surely an invitation to tweet about how poor the experience was.

The shock of being shouted at by a hoarse, bleached blonde because you had the temerity to put your toiletries in a plastic bag (clearly sealed and the correct size) that was not Stansted standard issue was overwhelming to a couple of non-English speakers. The old trick of shouting even louder to get your point across didn’t seem to help.

When a couple of people remonstrated with an overseer that the man who was organising their belongings for the security scans had been downright rude were reassured with, “that’s just his way, he’s got a heart of gold really”.

There has clearly been a lot of money spent on developing Essex’s gateway to the world, unfortunately taking the Ikea aisle approach means a meandering shopping centre where speed of transit is governed by the slowest plodder. What they haven’t done is to increase the numbers or comfort of seating, the only empty seat I could find was just outside the lavatories. Yet again on Saturday there was no wifi either in the airport “lounges” nor in Starbucks where I finally sat myself.

The doubly whammy of Saturday was the fact that I was flying with Ryan Air – I won’t go on at length they’re too easy a target. They have now introduced another innovation – putting your bags in the hold. Unless of course you pay a premium and then can take two bags on to the flight. This replaces the old system of only letting the first 90(?) people on with their cases which led to long queues, anxiety and aggression. None of these ranks anywhere close to their past policies of “first come, first served” for seating where my wife was told that if she and our three year old son were seated 20 rows apart that was just tough.

One of the problems with putting so much baggage in the hold was they had failed to factor in the ground staff. We boarded on time, were welcomed on board then were told that we were third in line to have the baggage loaded. After 40 minutes on a very hot and uncomfortable evening they told us that the bags were now all on but we had missed our “push” so the 20.35 took off at 22.00 the time that it had been scheduled to land.

Bloomberg has published the best and worst airlines and airports of 2018. In the bottom 10 airports come Edinburgh (134) and Manchester (136) but the penultimate in the list at 140, just above Kuwait International, comes Stansted.

Carriers are headed by Quatar, Lufthansa and Etihad, in 67 from 72 comes Ryan Air, Michael O’Leary you clearly have more work to do there are still 6 below you!

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