It seems as though the Train Operating Companies (or TOCs for those of us in the know) are winning and losing franchises with alarming rapidity.
But is it really making a difference?
I’m on the GNER (crossed out and East Coast written in) 1300hrs service from Edinburgh to London. Usually I fly, but I’ve been hankering for a train journey for some time. It’s just that it’s far too expensive compared to the cheap flights available.
This time, though, everything lined up… I knew I was travelling well in advance and got a Super Away Day Advance Purchase Special Holiday Off Peak Offer Ticket (that was the simplified version of the deal I got) which meant it was only slightly more expensive than, say, buying my own airline.
I took the plunge and bought the ticket… great!
Everything worked perfectly, I got a confirmation from GNER (crossed out and East Coast written in), collected my tickets from the machine and took my place on the platform.
Readers of previous blogs will remember this stands for ‘Oh, May God’!
The Super Away Day Advance Purchase Special Holiday Off Peak Offer Ticket was clearly attractive to many people, mostly large and very smelly backpackers.
My carefully reserved seat (I reserved a table with power socket) was occupied by four very large and very muddy guys each with several cans of beer in front of them (only half of which were opened), the rest of the carriage was similarly full, but, heaven be praised, there was as seat for me and I took it, shouldering an elderly lady and her Pekinese dog out of the way to get there first.
So, in a seat, lap top open, trying to ignore the Play Station Portables and Game Boys being used with the volume on full, I set to work until the refreshment trolley passed.
Great: lunch! BLT sandwich, bag of crisps, cup of coffee and an apple… ‘That will be £8.20, please.’
Right, loo break. I never knew I could hold my breath for that long!
As I arrived back at my seat to sit amidst the rubbish and coffee stains I took the time to reflect on the pleasures of rail travel and the improvements brought about by the change in franchisee. Errrr… couldn’t really think of any except that the GNER (crossed out and East Coast written in) on board boss is now called the ‘Team Leader’ rather than the ‘Train Manager’.
If franchising is all about duplicating systems, then GNER (crossed out and East Coast written in) has certainly excelled – the previous systems have been duplicated perfectly.
By the way, I’m very pleased that I booked a flight back to Edinburgh tomorrow evening.