Ineffective communications letting down the rail industryMarch 1st, 2011 by Barry Potier
Rail travellers often suffer during bad weather and last December’s cold snap was no exception. A study carried out by the Office of Rail Regulation found that both Network Rail and the train operators performed badly over the period.
The problem was made worse by train companies adopting different approaches to passenger information even though they were using the same lines. Operators also failed to coordinate emergency timetables, adding yet more confusion to passengers.
At stations, passengers faced a confusing array of information, from destination boards to tannoy announcements, which left them with no idea when, or even if, trains were running. The report claimed that wildly inaccurate information was being given in some instances because the latest train timetables were not fed into the information system which stations rely on.
Staff working on the trains could also be forgiven for feeling confused as they received a flood of information on their mobile phones.
The director of the Office of Rail Regulation, Ashwin Kumar, condemned the industry saying the number one cause of anger on the part of passengers is the failure to provide information when services are disrupted. Only 40% of passengers are happy with the way disruptions are handled and the industry must do better.
A spokesman from Network Rail admitted that some passengers faced tough journeys and he apologised for this. He also pointed out that the industry had made some progress towards improving its performance but realises there is still more to be done.
The lack of proper communication is a definite problem in the travel industry and it’s not only rail travellers who suffer. Who hasn’t spent frustrating hours in an airport wondering why their plane is delayed? But why does this keep happening?
If we can communicate with people on the other side of the world in seconds, why can’t we impart information to people who are in the same country? At the very least, if the powers that be are unsure, wouldn’t it be better to admit that and say “we’ll keep you informed” rather than giving out conflicting information that does nothing but anger the passengers?
Were your rail travel plans thwarted during the last cold snap? How well was the situation handled? We’d love to hear your stories…
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