East Coast Trains – time to get on track

Don’t get me wrong. Just as in every business there are some wonderful staff and some not so wonderful staff. I along with many other travellers feel however when you are paying over £8,000 a year on a nationalised rail company, who currently are the worst performing rail company out there,  there should be a little bit of accountability. That’s why we have raised a few issues.

Firstly the issue of none working staff travelling for free in first class carriages. Now apparently according to a very rude train guard (backed up by fellow travellers I may add) I was told it was a “perk”. This is the same train guard who has never checked my ticket yet and who from just after 7:00am parks himself in first class for 50 minutes. Nice!

So when this was raised with the extremely helpful chap in the press office we have been told,

“Although management staff grades and drivers are permitted to travel first class, subject to capacity, our employees are not entitled to first class travel when travelling to/ from work. ”

So essentially as I thought staff aren’t allowed to travel in first class free of charge, though we know that won’t be enforced don’t we?

“On some occasions though, especially on a number of our busiest services, East Coast staff will often assist the booked crew on the service should they need the extra help. “
Maybe that’s true – but its never happened on a train I’ve been on. This is a train where the standard class trolley has been removed to cut down the number of staff needed. This is the same train company who removed the direct debit scheme for season ticket holders who now either find £8,000 up front if they travel from where I do, or buy monthly tickets which over a year will cost you £1200 a year more. These changes of course do not effect East Coast staff.

“However, in such circumstances they should not be accepting our complimentary food and drink offerings.”

No No…. they didn’t accept “complimentary food and drink offerings”.  What they had which was not paid for was a bacon sandwich (and indeed a bottle of juice) we I believe would cost the rest of us over £5.00

The lovely chap at the press office ended with,

“I want to thank you for bringing these issues to our attention.  And on the basis of your enquiry, we will undertake to re-brief our employees on the policy of not occupying first class accommodation to/ from work unless assisting the booked crews – and to remind our staff to refrain from accepting complimentary food and beverage items.”

No some may say its a small issue. Yet in most places I have worked staff theft (isn’t that what it is?) even if unintentional would be investigated – not just an internal memo being sent saying don’t sit in first class and don’t take free food. Surely when you do a stock take the figures just would not add up? Perhaps it just doesn’t matter when its the public purse footing the bill?

But lets not be negative, let’s think of what should happen? Well I have no issue with free travel for staff. It makes sense. I have a problem with all none working staff clearing off into first class – particularly when we are now told that it is not allowed. I have a problem with staff sitting in luxury when standard class gets full, which could easily be solved by swapping one first class carriage with standard adding over 20 total seats to a train – and by removing over 50 first class seats you end up with 70 new spaces in standard for both staff and more importantly the fare paying public.

I have no issue with staff getting food provided for by the company if they are working. I do have a problem with employees not working on a specific , being given food. Interesting two people on the train who worked in Government departments were tempted to go up and ask that given they too were in the public sector could they have free food too?

Just as with the policy of broken windows policing, by concentrating on minor issues you combated bigger ones the same applies to operating any company. Of course detractors will say that these issues are petty, however a (completely unscientific) poll of fellow travellers who pay in excess of £100,000 to a public  sector organisation says otherwise.

If that makes me a bacon sandwich snatcher, it is a badge I wear with pride.

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