National Express - East Anglia
I thought I'd make this specific to East Anglia as other divisions of National Express may be slightly better than the sorry **** shower of **** that East Anglia are.
I work in Ipswich. For a day every other week I normally work in London. Depending on what I'm doing I can end up travelling peak or off peak. Today's joy was off peak. I'm going to save peak for another day when something truly epic occurs. Like getting a seat.
So - the 09.30 from Ipswich. Arrived at the station in plenty of time, collected pre-booked tickets, on to the platform and I see that the train will depart from platform 3 rather than platform 2. Platform 3 is over the bridge on the other side of the station. This normally indicates that something is wrong, as all trains to London depart from platform 2.
As it turns out, this was indeed a message from National Express confirming that my journey was to be memorable for all the wrong reasons.
At 09.17 something resembling a 1970s London Underground train creaked into platform 3. No announcement, it just stopped. A few people got off. Some stayed on. There was no announcement. Station attendants were not sure. One said "you may as well get one - if it isn't the 09.30 to London then at least you won't go far the other way".
Now, I'm not yet a champion of British industry but I do know that going the wrong way is going to royally **** my day up. The other way is Diss and Norwich. Both are, in my world of timings this morning, a long, long way away.
I'm a little concerned but get on nevertheless. Both a good and a tragically poor decision. At 09.28 the train departs - to London. Great news. But not great news for several people still buying coffee or saying goodbye to people on the platform. There were no beeps on the doors, no station announcements, nothing. Doors closed and we departed. I think I must be on a stealth train.
Fairly quickly I become aware of the main problem with this journey - there's no heating in my carriage and nor, as investigation soon reveals, any carriages. Overjoyed I quickly run the gauntlet of horrible 3G signal between Ipswich and Manningtree to determine if I could possible change trains there. Answer - I can't. I really need to be in London for an 11.15 meeting and there are no other trains that will get me there in time.
So I turn my attention to the National Express Twitter account, as they're normally pretty good. I tell them that I am on their 09.30 train and I am very cold. Other passengers are also very cold. Heck - even the driver may be cold.
National Express ask me what train I'm on. I tell them. They ask me what carriage I'm on. I tell them. They then tell me that they'll tell their fleet services that there's a problem and that their passengers on the 09.30 are cold. *******g fantastic - thank you for that.
A couple of amusing conversations then break out from fellow passengers who are either suffering on the same train or who follow the National Express Twitter account and have experienced similar conditions recently. One chap froze as recently as the night before. I ask him if he left any warm weather gear on the train. We laughed. I warmed up briefly.
By this point I'm 30 or 40 miles in and shivering. Being a decent chap I've already given my coat to the lady on the other side of the aisle and my suit, which had initially appeared to be up to the task of keeping me warm, is now giving up completely.
I contact National Express again who tell me that they are aware of my plight. I decide to escalate and ask what the redress procedures are if there is no heating in the carriages. They merrily inform me that a heating failure does not constitute a refundable event.
Then, separate to our increasingly intimate Twitter chat, the National Express Twitter account announces delays to our service. Great, so I'm going to be cold for longer and now miss my meeting. I phone ahead to postpone for half an hour. In the meantime, National Express are strangely quiet in their response to my suggestions on what other redress they could offer to transporting passengers across East Anglia in near sub zero temperatures. During this time though suddenly for the first time the conductor breaks into life and confirms our delayed arrival in London.
To my absolute joy, the delays are miraculously fixed. We arrive in Liverpool Street 2 minutes late but 28 minutes earlier than originally planned. To further add to my mood, as we pull into the station all the heaters in the carriage suddenly turn on full blast.
I arrive earlier for my meeting that I'd put back because I was late, freezing cold and not in the best spirits. To cap it all, my Travelcard refused to operate any tube barriers. At this point I gave up and used my own Oystercard, just glad to get underground somewhere warm.
National Express, you are a joke. And to make matters worse, you're a joke I will have to continue to use until the weather improves and I can motorbike into London instead. You ruined my day, forcing me to spend 90 minutes in freezing temperatures whist I frantically engaged the GPS on both iPhone and iPad merely to try and stay warm.
If anyone in your company knows how to effectively operate trains you need to empower them right now. My pledge to you is to make your life a social media hell until either you do or you decide that you're really not cut out for this sort of work.