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Larbert, Scotland, United Kingdom

Sunday, January 20, 2008

First Scotrail and the failed signals

Tonight, there was a 'total' signal failure between Winchburgh and Linlithgow on the Edinburgh-Glasgow route. It occurred at 2030ish, for the third time in a week, all supposedly weather related. I was on the 2300 ex Edinburgh...and this is where the story starts...FSR played a blinder tonight. Truly they were trying to reduce their overcrowding problem by putting people off traveling.

The Summary
2300 ex Edinburgh (no notices about congestions on screen or announcements at Waverley or haymarket according to passengers) got to just beyond Newbridge Junction and stopped at the start of the viaduct. The driver got out to use the SPT. After 20 minutes, passengers banging on the cab door caused him to make an announcement that we were delayed due to signaling problems. The train moved on at walking pace after 45 minutes, running slow to after Linlithgow station before then running normal speed to Glasgow arriving 59 minutes late (just inside the full refund limit).

The Complaints
The passengers had two complaints...both of which seemed reasonable.
1. The guard made no announcements about the delay except a "Sorry for any inconvenience caused" as the train arrived at Queen St. He went to the front cab soon after we stopped and did not re-appear until Linlithgow station. Two off-duty guards traveling home were left liaising with the front cab then walking through the train and passing out details of the nature and extent of the delay, thus they received most of the flak from passengers. These two off duty staff were in a very difficult position of having to try and defend their colleagues choice not to make more announcements about the delay, or the status of the situation.

2. Why were we even on a train. Several passengers seemed to be making the point that if FSR knew of the problem at 2030, why were we sitting for 45 minutes at 2315, and why had no bustitution been used to get around the problem? Whilst it can be appreciated that buses do not sit on standby and that FSR is a different company to Firstbus, the average passenger will think that some joined up thinking should apply.

According to one of the off duty staff on the train, the issue was politics, that if it was a NR fault, then FSR had to get NR to underwrite the cost of the buses before FSR could hire them in and suspend the service, and that if NR said that trains could pass then FSR could not choose to run buses instead.

The result
All the above was a nice healthy mix, with some added alcohol to create 100 annoyed, (in some cases stressed) passengers at Queen St. The duty station manager there had no compensation forms to hand, and the travel centre was closed, added to which, there were no taxis in the rank at 0100 when the train arrived. One might have thought that FSR would have tipped off Glasgow taxi's, given that several passengers might need to get home other than on foot.

As someone who has done this journey over 300 times in 3 years, and uses rail travel 4-5 times a week, I really wish that FSR didn't do things like this. they are normally so much better with bustitution, staff to help and cope the best they can with infrastructure failures which are beyond their control, but last night (maybe because it was a Saturday) they let us down. A nice complaint letter is winging it's way to fort William to get me a full refund.

I wouldn't have minded but I only made the trip to a friends housewarming party, and spent 4 and a half hours traveling for 2 hours at the party. Oh well.

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