Public transport is a shambles – it’s always overpriced tickets and underwhelming service.
Busses are always late and driving past the people waiting at the stops.
Trains are always packed, and ticket prices are extortionate.
Now, it doesn’t matter where you live in the UK, the above statements always seem to ring true. But what are we supposed to do about it?
Well, recently, I spoke to the ticket office manager of my local train station, and he told me that the only way to really get through to the company was to complain directly.
Companies have no choice but to pay attention to direct contact with customers and try to resolve any issues they’re having.
Taking this advice on board (no pun intended), I no longer stayed silent with my public transport outrage. I immediately encountered an issue on the trains that same week, and instead of keeping it to myself or ranting to my family, I quickly drafted up an email to the train company about it.
I explained that the customer service I had received on another platform was unacceptable, and just the icing on the cake for a day of late and cancelled trains for that station. I was polite and conscious of the fact that it was not the fault of the person receiving this email, and when I pressed send, I had little hope of getting a response, let alone any action.
The following week, I encountered missing busses and the ones that did turn up were late. This issue saw myself, my mother and my dog standing in the dark for almost 90 minutes, during some of the worst rain we’d seen in a long time.
Again, I calmly contacted the company to state my issue (because this wasn’t the first time it had happened – it was, in fact, the fourth time in two weeks). I told them what had happened and was informed by automatic reply that it would be forwarded to the correct management.
Not long after both instances, I received two very different responses.
The train company emailed me in good time, apologising and explaining the fair reasons for the delays that day. They also explained that they would contact the station where I had my issue and review the member of staff that was rude to me. I can honestly say that I have never seen that member of staff again, so either that’s coincidence, or they stuck to their word and have dealt with the issue – either way, I’m happy to have a better service now.
The bus company, on the other hand, began with a short explanation of why the service was the way that it was, and defensive excuses about why it may continue to be late. I replied to this weak email, showing more annoyance than before, because I found their reply unsatisfactory. I remained polite and expected another response to answer my questions – no reply ever came.
From these two experiences, I can honestly say that complaining to the company directly has made more of an impact than ranting on Twitter, but not by much. Trains and busses are still late, customer service is still hit or miss, and public transport is still known for being, well, awful.
Bus and train companies up and down the country have complete monopoly over the public transport in our local areas, and no matter how bad their reputations may be, many of us are stuck using their services regardless.
I’ve seen literally thousands of people on Twitter complaining about their local services, but nothing ever seems to change.
So how do we, as an active public, make a difference to this issue? Perhaps, if we all make the effort to complain, something will have to be done, but as it stands, I’m unsure of what can be done to break the patterns of the public transport system in the UK.
If you have any ideas, please let me know in the comments here, or any of my linked social media.