Tuesday, 9 August 2011

8 August 2011. Letter 15

Dear Mark and Sue

Re: 19.22 FGW service from Paddington to Oxford, 8/8/11. Amount of my day wasted: eight minutes.

Sue! Hello! It's been... too long. It's so lovely to hear from you again! So Mark has decided to take a (no-doubt) well-earned break. A period of rest and recuperation. A recharging of the batteries. Good! Well done! Everyone deserves a holiday - and goodness knows he seems to have timed it well. I wouldn't mind skipping out of this country for a while just now too. Would that I could.

First Great Western trains will miss him, Sue. I will miss him. I'm sure you'll miss him. But - every cloud and all that: and the railway's loss would seem to be our gain. I'm looking forward to entering a new phase in our relationship, Sue: we're going to become pen pals! I shall be on my best behaviour!

So, to business. Last night... what can we say about last night? The less the better, probably. It was not a good night for the country, was it, Sue? My delayed train journey home seems rather trivial in comparison to the looting of our capital city. My lost eight minutes... what is it compared to the flames above Croydon and Enfield, the smashed glass of Clapham and Ealing, the broken bricks and blood of Hackney and Lewisham?

My delay: it's trivial and pointless and unimportant in that context, Sue. Of course it is. That was real and awful and painful and sad and angry... and I'm just another poor sap shelling out for shoddy service, day in, day out.

Perhaps I should learn my place, eh? Perhaps I should just learn to take my medicine like a man. Perhaps I should just accept that paying over the odds for a second-rate service is how things have to be. Perhaps every time my train is delayed by eight minutes, I should be relieved it's not delayed by nine minutes. Or 10, 20, 30 minutes. Perhaps I should be congratulating you it's not worse. What do you think? Am I ungrateful, Sue?

Perhaps I am. Perhaps I'm being hideously selfish, expecting your company to provide what I pay you for.

But on the other hand... what can I do? I'm committed now, Sue! I'm in too deep! Once I began to believe in the crazy idea that you should run your trains according to your timetables, I crossed a line. And I can't cross back, Sue! I can't skip a letter every time something awful happens, can I? There's a principle to uphold!

The fact is, for better or worse, we've gone and created ourselves an ideal, Sue. A dream of a better tomorrow. A tomorrow in which you do what I pay you to do. Call me deluded, call me naive, call me a hopeless romantic... but we have to stay firm, Sue! We have to stay strong and stick to our course! There must be no Plan B!

And the fact is... as from last night, when my train home slowed and shuddered and shivered to a stop by the cooling towers of Didcot (basking in the gold and bronze of another August sunset), you owe me a further eight minutes, Sue.

There were only eight minutes, admittedly, but they were my eight minutes. They weren't yours to take.

Anyway. Much as I'd love to keep chatting, time flies and I must get on. Let's hope things calm down tonight. Sincerely. But then I'm sure it will all be fine... why, I read only this morning that Dave and Boris have flown back from their hols especially early to take control of the commotion.

We can all relax, Sue: the Eton boys are here to sort it all out! I'm convinced that now the chaps from the Bullingdon Club have returned to the country, all those disaffected oiks will see sense and start behaving themselves again.

Let's just hope Mark doesn't feel the need to do the same to sort out the mess his company is in, eh?

Au revoir!



  1. I find myself hoping each day that your train will be late so I can read another letter - sorry if I'm sending out late vibes in your direction. Waiting for the day that Mark cracks and sends you a jovial email in return. I hope Sue is as attractive as I'm picturing her in that red dress - a mature lady but with bucket loads of confidence and experience. phwoar!

  2. One of the things a company often does when their priority is profit rather than people is stick to the bare minimum that they need to do. Maintenance is one of those, so I expect that both they and network rail stick to the mandatory service intervals for the equipment they have.

    The problem with this is that the age and condition of the equipment means that following the service schedule that was relevant when it was new means that you are going to get failure on a regular basis.

    Things change, but the process stays the same.

    That said, when your primary consideration is to your shareholders, you do the bare minimum and take the cash - just like the printworkers before Murdoch and Thatcher conjured up the Wapping riots ;o)