Wednesday, January 02, 2008

First Transport Rant of 2008

My anger this time is at National Express who have recently taken over the East Coast Mainline that was previously being run by GNER We’ve had our ups and downs over the years, me and GNER but I think I’m going to miss them, based on my first experience of the new regime.

For my return journey, I had booked a seat in First Class. Not that I’m usually this flash but the ticket was only £10 more than standard and past experiences with a large suitcase and the Christmas crowds made me think it was the way to minimise the stress of the journey. The train was 15 minutes late and when it arrived it was already full, every seat and spare inch of floor space was taken up with luggage and people standing. My seat that I naively thought was reserved had someone else in it who’d travelled from Scotland and also had a reservation for it.

So I spoke to a train guard, who said ‘All of the seats have been double-booked as its Christmas’

‘But I’ve paid for First Class’ I countered

To which he said parrot fashion ‘You haven’t paid for the seat reservation. We give you that free so it doesn’t guarantee you a seat’.

“But why would I pay extra for First Class if it didn’t get me a seat. Its not better standing in First Class than standing in Standard’, said I.

To which he had no reasonable answer, but instead said that the next train would be starting from this station so there might be more room on there and he signed my ticket to allow me to travel on the later train.

As I was getting off, another National Express employee told me there was no point getting off as the next train would be the same. I explained to her that there wasn’t even room to stand on the one I’d got off, so I didn’t have much choice. She said the next one would be as bad. Then we had the same conversation about seats not being guaranteed.

Our conversation was overheard by a couple of Americans who told me they thought it was a disgrace what these companies were allowed to get away with. Thankfully I got on the next train (which wasn’t anywhere near as busy but was delayed) but I will be writing a strongly worded letter of complaint to National Express.


Mellifluous Dark said...

Hi and Happy New Year from a de-lurker who likes your blog.

Such experiences as your National Express saga make my blood boil. I hope you get somewhere with your complaint; I swear some of the people who work in the public transport industry are automatons!


M said...

I had a similar experience a few years ago on a train from Milan to Rome. Reserved and paid for First Class seats (my mother and I) and ended up sitting on the floor of the train in the 'foyer' of the car with our luggage...not even in a seating section...all the way. Was told on the train that reserving and paying for a First Class seat did not guarantee us a seat....which I've never quite understood, even to this day. My mom and I chuckled and wrote it off to experience, but I haven't ridden a train in Italy since. Apparently, I just can't quite figure out how that whole thing works. And if you think it's confusing in English, try it in Italian. LOL

Hotter Than... said...

I completely understand your rant. What I don't understand is why Christmas is a justification for double booking First Class. Surely Christmas is the time that people would definitely be travelling, either to loved ones or back to work. Sounds like a sly money making scheme to me.

I'm sorry it's only Day 2 of the New Year and there's already a transport rant. Hope the rest of the year gets better for you.

SandDancer said...

Hello to you MD - nice of your to de-lurk.

I've posted my letter of complaint asking for a refund. I doubt I'll get one but I did complain to another train company and got some money off vouchers from them - but more importantly I think it is important to complain so that they know they can't get treat people like this.

Not sure it would be so easy in Italian though, M!

Hottie - I agree it was blatently a money making idea rather than a mistake. I know they are a business but really that is no way to treat customers.

Anonymous said...

I used to travel up and down the west coast mainline at Christmas standing at the end of the carriage by the toilet usually on a pile of luggage - I always wished I'd booked and paid extra for 1st class, now I know not to regret it.

I share your pain on transport in 2008 already - I've been caught up in the unscheduled liverpool street station closure - it's been a complete nightmare and so disorganised - I hope network rail get a huge fine for it - especially if reports of hungover engineers calling in sick in tonight's paper are true !