Northern Rail, First Transpennine Express and Network Rail: please give me a call. As a communications professional I can stop you making such chronic balls-ups as this one.
As mentioned in previous post, my wife had a not-so-entertaining experience on the trains recently. She, along with all the other people who regularly get her train, turned up at the usual time at Burnage station one Monday morning. The lady behind the counter comes out and says to them all: “You do know the 8.29 isn’t running don’t you?” That would be a ‘no’. How were they supposed to know? “There’s been a poster up for ages.”
Here is that poster in all its glory (click on it for a larger view).
Now this may only make sense to residents of Manchester, or those that know the geography of the Northwest. Suffice to say that all of the stations mentioned on this poster go from Manchester NORTH. Our station is SOUTH of Manchester. Not only is our individual station not mentioned, neither is any other stop on our line. In fact the diagram seems to show that our station is NOT affected. But it is affected: the train won’t be running for over a month.
This error was compounded in a couple of ways. Firstly, the timetables that the companies concerned produced for the work-affected trains. These only showed the trains that had been affected and altered. Not the trains that were running normally: of course you need a separate timetable for that (!?!?!?!?). And throughout this timetable? A colour code that has no key. So all crystal clear there.
Secondly, the companies are offering no compensation for those travellers with season tickets because they “have provided alternative transport”. Hmmm, I’m not sure an occasional service that requires the commuters to travel over an hour earlier in the mornings can really be considered equivalent.
Why is this relevant to this blog? Because companies have to move in to the present first if we’re to have any hope of getting to the future.
An efficient public transport infrastructure is vital to both a successful economy and tackling climate change. Every cock-up like this drives more people back to their cars.
In the 21st century, is a poster really the best these companies can do to reach out to their customers? Quite apart from the total inaccuracy of the message, the medium hardly seems sufficient when you are talking about the working lives of thousands of people. I’d say that they were cheapskates, but I’m not sure that the alternatives would be any more expensive than designing, printing and taping up posters in every station.
So if you are reading this and you work for Northern Rail, Network Rail, or First Transpennine Express, I realise I may not be your favourite person right now. But please, give me or one of my colleagues in the communications industry a call. We can talk to you about quality processes to ensure that little details (like the whole south side of a major city), don’t slip through the cracks. We can talk to you about clarity of communication, so that what you produce is comprehensible. And we can talk to you about using appropriate media for communicating, so that your message reaches people before they turn up to get a non-existent train on a Monday morning.