Basic Rail Rant – First Group Must Go

Here’s a nice simple rant about the train services in and around London. I get the train from Tooting, which used to be run adequately by Thameslink, and is now run by the sick joke of the industry, First Group. Several stations on the line are still called ______ Thameslink, highlighting the stupidity of the entire Infraco/TOC system, as forced into place by the Tories. Every time you change the TOC, you should change the station names. It’s like a sports stadium that changes it’s name each time it gets a new sponsor – one day it’s the Lockheed Martin Velodrome, the next it’s the Imperial Tobacco Velodrome, and all the maps and street signs have to be changed. It reminds me of a Southern Water telemetry station I worked on in Hampshire that was referred to in the database as “Tesco Car Park”. The problem was it didn’t say which town in Hampshire it was in, and it also didn’t say that it was no longer a Tesco – Asda had taken the site over, in line with the general decay of the area.

Anyway, I went to the station today to find 3 queues where there is usually only one. One for the ticket window, one for the ticket machine, and one for the guy with the portable ticket selling machine they had parachuted in. I chose the machine queue, waited, and bought a return ticket for Victoria. I normally get a travelcard, but I’m only working one day this week, because I’m off to LA again tomorrow.

I got on the train, zoned out for half an hour, then got off at Blackfriars. Going through the barriers, the machine swallowed my ticket, leaving me unable to get on the District Line to get to Victoria. I asked the First Group plc Revenue Protection Officer why it had done this. I showed him my return ticket and he said it was becasue the ticket was from Tooting to London Terminals. Blackfriars is a London Terminal, therefore my journey was at an end. I said I had bought a ticket to Victoria. He said I would have to buy an extra ticket for the tube, then claim it back from Tooting Station.

So the problem is that First Group’s ticket machine is programmed wrong. In total, then, rather annoying. Not as bad by any means as some horror stories you hear and read, especially on my old route out to Godalming on the dread South West Trains. But my mind is clear. All the TOCs should lose their franchises, and ideally suffer some form of public corporal punishment. The bosses should also be tagged and branded, and banned from ever owning any kind of property again.

Another thing. The new style of ticket barriers are badly designed. They open after a slight delay, and slowly, so you think they aren’t going to open. They beep when you place your easily hacked Citizen Movement Tracking Card, sorry, Oyster Card on the reader, to let you know that the barrier has read it. But you can’t tell which barrier has beeped, because the whole row of barriers is beeping as the morning rush comes through. The old display of a black background with large bold words and numbers that light up clearly has been replaced with an LCD which shows small plae grey characters against a bright green background. Impossible to read at a glance in passing, because of the viewing angle when standing by the barrier, the colours and the text size. So all the feedback from the barriers is gone. Didn’t they test them? What moron could have approved the design? The Factory Acceptance Test? The Site Acceptance Test?

Here endeth the rant. Cheers.