On my way to Inverness for the National Collective event at Bogbain Farm (me and all the other creatives!) My trip brought to mind what Jean Urquhart said at the Yes meeting at Portree.
She said all new MSPs should be obliged to travel around Scotland for six weeks after their election – by public transport…
They would get an understanding of their own country and would find out first hand just how poor some of our infrastructure is from no phone signal, no wi fi, no radio reception, dismal facilities, dodgy services, lack of information, toilets, and comfort despite some pretty high charges.
I decided I’d try to go by train (like the new Scotrail bullet train above!) on the West Coast line as far as Fort William and tried to find out how I could then get to Inverness – by train. No amount of hunting the net could explain and the Scotrail website only responds to specific questions. Since it couldn’t answer this one, I was suspicious that my first instinct was right – you can’t train it to Sneckie from FW.
I called the information line where an unconvincing young man told me I could indeed train from Fort William to Inverness – via GLASGOW! ‘Do you know the geography of that’, I asked, to be told that was what it said on the screen in Bangalore.
I tried saying that I was actually starting out from Glasgow but he had no idea what I was talking about. Satisfied that there was no rail line between the two places, I went ahead to book a ticket online for the East Coast line. Success! Using my Old Geezer’s Pass I reserved a First Class seat with the saving as befits a man of my status.
It was only when the ticket arrived in the mail that it said the departure was from EITHER Queen Street or Central. Now I know they go from Queen Street but should I take that at face value? I went on to the Scotrail site and my eye caught the sidebar information about work on the line and disruption.
There it said that my train would not run from Queen Street at all and I would be going by bus instead as far as Perth. But nowhere was that info available while I bought a ticket and it didn’t say so on the ticket. In fact it didn’t even say at any stage that I would change at Perth – something a visitor would surely need to know…
Now I am stuck with a First Class ticket that befits my etc…and I’m going by bloody coach! Do I get my money back? Will have to sit with Yes-voting riff-raff?
I called up Bangalore again to double check all this and had it confirmed by a nice young man looking at the screen thousands of miles away. But he doesn’t know what the work is, what they’re doing or why I wasn’t informed on booking because, nice as he is, he might as well be a machine. An information serviced needs staff in command of knowledge and able to reassure, not parrot down a bad phone line.
I regard this type of misleading service as slippery merchandising – money for old rope and much too hard work for a paying customer.
I suggest Jean’s idea for MSPs be extended to all managers of Scotrail. Take away their staff travel passes and make them do what we have to…this is not a front-facing customer-driven business. It’s a make-do, ‘we’ve no competition’ model that doesn’t try hard enough. (Maybe we should tie the boss to the line and ask him to guess if the train’s going to be on time…)
We DO need a better Scotland.by