Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Iarnrod Eireann would like to apologise for ...

You only know how good your public transport is when things go wrong. For the past year, I've been a CIE junkie taking train and buses everywhere. My VW Golf and the attendant bank loan has been liquidised and is being carefully invested in BT2 and Monsoon. I'm doing my bit for the environment and my carbon footprint is now smaller than a highly anorexic stick insect on a bicycle. I have reach the zen point of acceptance that the train and bus timetables are not cosmically aligned for my personal convenience. I appreciate that our temperate climate will throw up a statistically significant number of inclement days and so a brolly is a useful investment. I've discovered podcasting and rediscovered the joy of reading.

I arrived at my train station this evening to be gruffly told that all north and southbound services were interrupted due to technical difficulties. "Iarnrod Eireann would like to apologise for the late running of this service which is due to technical difficulties." No prob, I thought, how bad can it be? The platform indicator counted down the next train from 23 minutes to 15 minutes. "Iarnrod Eireann would like to advise passengers that due to technical difficulties all services would be subject to interruption", the station announcer ominously advised. No worries, it will come when it comes. Then I notice that the 15 minutes has become 34 minutes. Still 34 minutes seems like a fairly certain number.

20 minutes and 4 garbled messages later, we were advised that the train now standing on platform 1 was the delayed 17:12 service to ..... Wait a minute, there is no train at platform 1 or indeed on the other platform for that matter. 10 minutes of repeatedly being assured about this phantom train, we were advised that the next southbound train would be leaving from platform 2. Out in the rain and over the tracks. Having just gotten to platform 2, the announcement subtly changed to Platform 1. Cue everyone rushing back through the rain to the original platform. Train in 8 minutes, the display said with much authority. "Passengers are advised that the 17:26 service will leave from platform 3". But there is only 2 platforms in this station! "Passengers are advised that due to delays, services are running up to 40 minutes late." Now we kind of figured out ourselves that trains were hardly running late because of the absence of delays.

In the space of four minutes, three trains proceeded to depart half-empty from the now dangerously crowded station for the station one stop beyond my destination. But as Northbound trains were running 55 minutes late, none of use were inclined to try the "go-beyond-and-come-back" routine. Only when the last of these three trains had disappeared down the tracks did the announcer advise that services had returned to normal. Then, without a hint of irony, announced that the delayed 17:48 service was leaving from the preceding station and would arrive shortly at platform 1. It was 19:13. Well, at least it would be here in 4 minutes (or 12 minutes, if the display was anything to go by). The train duly arrived. But it did so into platform 2 disguised as a Northbound service to Malahide. Probably for health and safety reasons, the platform announcer waited until it had left the station almost empty before he revealed the cunning nature of its deception. When the train did appear at the announced platform, correctly signed, with a corroborating display and a confirming CIE platform worker, some 22 minutes later, it was a free-for-all. I was swept into the carriage by the undertow of frustrated fellow commuters and pressed too close for comfort against a man with an unhealthy addiction to cheesy nachos and an aversion to deodorant.

Now don't get me wrong, I accept that trains can go technical, there can be a bridge strike at Connolly and there is little the poor station announcer can do about it. It is probably just a coincidence that important platform announcements appear scheduled to coincide with a train revving its engine and obliterating the message. I'm willing to accept that years of under-investment, Celtic Tiger growth and the tortuous planning process have all mitigated against optimal train services. But do you have to treat your customers with such contempt?

3 Comments:

Blogger Neil said...

What gets me is that in Greystones (where the platform displays give no information other than "Welcome to Greystones"), the guy behind the desk simply disappears whenever a train arrives so no-one can ask where it's going.

You know who you are, chubby ginger goatee-bearded exact-change-requiring CIE employee

11:53 p.m., March 13, 2007  
Blogger JL Pagano said...

The key word there is "customer". They don't see you as one of those. You are merely a "passenger", and until transport companies get over this distinction, stories like yours will continue.

6:35 a.m., March 14, 2007  
Blogger Omaniblog said...

Thanks for such a detailed description. It's only in such detail that I find much satisfaction.

"Contempt" or incompetence? Carelessness or poverty-of-mind? Passengers or customers (as JL P reminds us)?

It looks to me like the lack of a steering intelligence. It would embarrass any responsible group of people.

I hope you have sent your post to the head of the organisation.

11:14 p.m., March 28, 2007  

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