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EDITIONS
Sunday, 16 February, 2003, 15:58 GMT
Rail champ takes it to the top
Jon Yuill, our rail commuters' champ, is a seasoned and frustrated traveller on First Great Eastern trains. He took FGE's chief, Dave Kaye, to task in a day-long e-mail debate.


This e-mail debate will be updated throughout the day, with the most recent e-mail at the top of the page. Bookmark this page to keep up with the debate.

To:Jon Yuill
From:Dave Kaye
Sent:13 November 16:24
Subject:RE: Rail grief
Hopefully the on-train CCTV will act as a deterrent, it has done in other locations. I will look at additional security staff, particularly in the evenings and on late night trains where more disruption and anti-social behaviour is likely to occur.

We are moving on "joined-up" transport, and we are introducing additional cycle racks at stations, as well as a number of initiatives with bus companies on integration. FGE is predominantly a commuter railway, therefore bikes not only take up space on peak services, they also represent a safety hazard on occasions. I do not wish to compromise anyones safety on FGE services.
Regards, Dave

----------Original Message----------

To:Dave Kaye
From:Jon Yuill
Sent:13 November 15:56
Subject:RE: Rail grief
I don't want to get hung up on one issue, but the only inspectors I ever see get on, inspect, and get off. I have witnessed (and been victim of) more than one incident where the presence of on-board staff would have been of great assistance. This simply doesn't happen.

We all know when "incidents" happen, surely you owe it to your passengers (NOT customers), to protect them. However... I'd like to know ask what you can do to improve "joined-up" travel. Just why is it so hard to travel with one's bicycle? Perhaps you could refurbish the first-class compartments which constantly run at half empty to enable us to be greener commuters!

----------Original Message----------

To:Jon Yuill
From:Dave Kaye
Sent:13 November 14:45
Subject:RE: Rail grief
I totally agree! Our conductors are there to do exactly what you describe and for retail and customer service. The majority of our trains are "driver-only" operation, and have been for some time. Most conductors were withdrawn under British Rail. We do have a number of Revenue Protection Inspectors who also assist customers. Any increase in on-train staff would be part of new franchise proposals, however they would be a significant cost to be borne by the Strategic Rail Authority.

The new class 360 trains are all fitted with internal CCTV to assist safety and security of customers. We have also increased our security staff and are currently undertaking an experiment on the Braintree branch with additional on-train staff.

We have recently got secure station awards at a number of stations , and we have increased the number of CCTVs on stations. Project Inform has provided all our stations with emergency help and response facilities, together with real-time service information.

----------Original Message----------

To:Dave Kaye
From:Jon Yuill
Sent:13 November 14:02
Subject:RE: Rail grief
Dave, I'd like to move on to something else if I may. I've often wondered what guards actually guard? Us passengers often never see the human face of the people in whom we entrust our lives. How about a new breed of staff? Someone who actually walks the train; checks tickets; helps with queries; gives advice. And, importantly, someone who acts as a deterrent to antisocial behaviour. Personal security is always important, and (radical idea approaching) we would have a REAL PERSON to talk to. How about it?

----------Original Message----------

To:Jon Yuill
From:Dave Kaye
Sent:13 November 13:05
Subject:RE: Rail grief
The automated communication is in addition to the driver still being able to make announcements. The key is having the control to let drivers know of the incident or delay and for this to be passed on to customers on the train, similar to the Underground.

I'm also anxious to improve the station communication for intending passengers. The delays last night caused massive disruption to all our lines, and we did our best to let people know what was going on.

Unfortunately many trains didn't move for a long time, however our feedback was that drivers were letting people know what had happened. We can look at "help point" communications where people contact us to find out issues. We are looking at other initiatives for modern communication methods eg. Bluetooth and texting.
Regards, Dave

----------Original Message----------

To:Dave Kaye
From:Jon Yuill
Sent:13 November 11:51
Subject:RE: Rail grief
This issue of communication - I have a feeling these "automated" scrolling devices could become a good excuse for real life drivers not actually talking to us passengers. It will be like talking to a call centre. Frustrating!

Also, I have to say just recently (last night in fact, and this morning), we get things like: "The train is late because the one in front was late." It makes people laugh and cry in equal measure. Would it not be possible for the passengers to talk direct to someone, as happens on the Tube?

----------Original Message----------

To:Jon Yuill
From:Dave Kaye
Sent:13 November 10:27
Subject:RE: Rail grief
Delivering good information is vital and is one of the measures First Great Eastern are judged on in customer satisfaction surveys. We know we have room to improve and it is an area we are working on. I want the driver to tell customers the reason for the delay. The information is provided from Railtrack's signalling centre, however, quite often the driver is not told of the nature of a problem. It is this link that I want to see improved and we are pushing very hard for this to happen.

With infrastructure failures, such as points problems, track circuit failures or trespassers, the main question is "how late will we be?" Many times we do not know accurately, but some information is better than none, and we should be able to pass on updates as we find them out.

Our new trains that commence service next year have totally up to date IT with scrolling visual information and automatically generated announcements. With serious disruption the driver will be able to over-ride this system.

----------Original Message----------

To:Dave Kaye
From:Jon Yuill
Sent:13 November 09:15
SubjectRail grief
Hi David, and thanks for agreeing to take part.

As you may know, I am trying to represent the "Voice from the platform", so I'm not getting involved in the highly detailed strategic thinking - I'll leave that to the professionals. However, I have over 20 years of commuting experience, not all of it happy. I have some questions which I and my fellow passengers would like to raise. Maybe, working together, we can improve things all round.

Firstly, communication. If there's one thing worse than going nowhere on a train, it's going nowhere and not being told why. Yet day after day, week after week, we're left sitting in the middle of nowhere and are told nothing by the driver. Indeed, sometimes he claims he doesn't know himself! Why is this, and how can it be improved?


Profiles - who's taking part?

A commuter of 20 years, Jon Yuill was voted BBC News Online's rail commuters' champion in an online poll. An art director living in Essex, he relies on the First Great Eastern service from Witham in Essex to London Liverpool Street. Delays, poor train conditions and badly informed staff are his biggest bugbears.

Dave Kaye is managing director of First Great Eastern railways. He started working in the transport in 1979, in the bus sector. In 1988 he joined the management of First North Western trains in Manchester and in August this year took up the job of running First Great Eastern.

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