Customer Service?

picAMT35005It seems that the railroad in Britain going up to Norwich had a bad day yesterday, and as happens so often these day, they inconvenienced somebody who mentioned it on Twitter, and she happens to be friend of mine.

To be honest, one can find these everyday, about nearly every corporations, and normally I consider them noise. But the thing is, I have quite a few friends around Norfolk, England, and they are unanimous in condemning, loudly and often profanely, the railroad. Makes one wonder what’s up with this company



OK, Sarah went on a bit of a rant there, and there are a few more, and gin was mentioned. [The mention was in relation to gin not being availabe, it’s no drunken rant 🙂 ] But even so, if you are depending on a company to get you where you need to be, their failure to provide the contracted service can have reasonably serious consequences.

How would you like to miss a job interview (or your wedding) because an airline for no good reason cancelled your flight? The Brits use the railroad as we use airlines here.

I referred to (in my answer) that Amtrak has good people in the field, here’s what I was talking about.

Many of you know that when I go east at Christmas, I often take the train, rather than tolerate the airports. It’s a tradition, and truthfully, I enjoy the trip, although it can get a bit tedious. In any case, last winter, things got a bit screwed up, and I simply forgot that the train leaves Denver on the day before it gets to my station (I board at about 1:00 am). And so, through no fault of Amtrak, I was a day late (a dollar short, as well!).

Funny part was, I didn’t realize it all, until the attendant couldn’t find my reservation, and of course, at Christmas, the trains are running near capacity. So we went to find the conductor, who runs the train here, as well.

My experience was a bit different from Sarah’s. The first thing he did was figure out if he had a compartment to stash me in, luckily, he did. That got me to Chicago. Then he picked up his iPhone and called Amtrak reservations/customer service. by now, it’s about 2 am, and in about 5 minutes he had it all straightened out, on all three trains, not only at no cost, but I got a bit of money back because the fares were a bit cheaper than when I had made my reservations. All I had to do was pick up my new tickets at Chicago.

Interesting, I think, that an American quasi-governmental company would do so well at this, while a private British company would fumble so badly, and so often as well.

I don’t have an answer really. Amtrak was formed back in 1971, in a deal to get the railroads out of the passenger business that was costing them great gobs of money, and had been ever since the post office took the mail off the trains (and in truth, even before). The British, on the other hand, nationalized their railroads back in the 30s or 40s and the weren’t privatised until Thatcher was Prime Minister.

In both cases then, it’s nearly a generation ago, and one would have expected the attitudes to change but, I expect it’s basically an institutional memory, in the American case, that one must earn one’s patronage, and in the British one of we are the government and you will do what you’re told. or something.

But, I also note that American airlines have a habit of abusing their customers the same way, so maybe it has to do with being the dominant carrier. American railroads may well have been the same way back in the day, before airplanes and automobiles took over. While Amtrak has to scratch for customers, and sleeper customers just have to be profitable. Competition is always good for the consumer.

So no real lessons here, just some interesting speculation.


About NEO
Lineman, Electrician, Industrial Control technician, Staking Engineer, Inspector, Quality Assurance Manager, Chief Operations Officer

7 Responses to Customer Service?

  1. Many Brit’s are simply spoiled, and think the railway exists for their personal comfort and needs, this is the generational attitude today especially. I can remember the socialized railway, it was a mess at times, but Brit’s plowed thru! And now in the UK it is so big and just has so many parts, etc. And the difference between the American and the British rail is huge!


    • NEO says:

      Nope not her. For one thing she’s a Chicagoan. Put her on a commuter train with nothing but lousy seats instead of long distance car, from what they all say, it happens a lot. They don’t even have a poor excuse.


      • I was of course talking about the UK generally! And Americans would surely hate the British trains, especially if they had to use them often! As you say, its the way Brit’s get around.

        Liked by 1 person

    • the unit says:

      Fr. Robert I may be way off thread, but I mean well. Differences between failures may be common.
      iSmash! Video reveals ‘impact-resistant’ Apple Watch SHATTERS when dropped, That’s not a link I don’t think, but a headline available @ Google.

      I do have to watch my sundial doesn’t blow over in a strong wind. It sort of top heavy as a bird bath, watering hole. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mike says:

    Union Station in Kansas City is quite nice. (That’s the photo you have used.) I recall traveling by train to the Southwest when I was young. Rail can be fun if you don’t have appointments… as you mention. I’ve also enjoyed Eurorail… also with no a[ppointments. Luckily we all have alternative modes of personal transportation. Let’s just make sure that does not change.

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Thanks for the ID, as I recall I found it on Google-looking for the car. My normal route runs through Omaha, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. Union Station in Chicago is still amazing both as a building and the engineering of the rail throat.

      As to the modes, I agree, other than a few city pairs and the Northeast Corridor we’re just too spread out for it to work. I looked it up once, England is about two thirds the size of Nebraska, and east anglia (Norwich, specifically) doesn’t even have a full motorway, kind of cut off. All modes have important roles to play, indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: My Article Read (4-28-2015) | My Daily Musing

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