Saturday, October 27, 2007

Avoid Midland Mainline

Last night, I was on my way to Withernsea, as in my habit. For weeks, I have been taking this overnight series of five trains. This journey includes a four hour wait at Sheffield. As I have on previous occasions, I went out to the late night restaurant, across the street from Sheffield Station, to buy a Coke. Besides getting a cold drink, it gives me change for the bus in Hull, in the morning. I rushed back to the station, to get into the waiting room on platform 2, before the Station house closes. The Sheffield Station building closes between 2AM and 4:20AM, for some odd reason. I think it's supposedly so the station can be cleaned, although Leeds Station stays open all night and they manage to clean it.
As I re-entered the station building and walked toward the stairs to the platforms, some geezer asked me where I was going. The fact that he spoke to me at all was disturbing enough. This dude was dressed in some sort of uniform and was the guy who usually locked the doors when the station closed. It was 1:48AM and there was a train departing for Manchester Airport at 1:50. It's the last train before the station closes. I should have just lied and claimed I was going for that one, but, unfortunately, my first inclination is to be honest. Instead, I tried to through him off with a vague answer. "To the train," I said.
"The station's closed," he said, coming over to me.
"Not yet," I pointed out. There was still a few minutes before it closed. I started to walk on toward the platform. He blocked my way, repeating that the station was closed. I confessed that I was going to the waiting room on the platform, but he said I had to leave, as the station was closed. I then said that I make this journey every week and I always am able to wait in the waiting room on the platform. He responded by claiming that never happens and he's there every week. "Then where were you last week, because I was there last week, along with several other people, and there was no sign of you," I pointed out. He then admitted that he'd been off last week. I tried taking the offensive and pointed out that he'd lied to me, when he said he was always there and no one waited in the waiting room. I pointed out that I was the customer and I have a ticket, with a four hour layover. I wanted to wait inside the waiting room, as I have done, previously, rather than out in the cold. He responded by shouting over me that the station was closed and if I didn't leave immediately, he'd call security.
I looked him in the eye and accused him of being a useless jobsworth. He didn't like that. He then retorted with a claim that if I had been "civil" toward him, he might have let me go, but now I had to leave. Now, he'd shown no previous indication that things were negotiable. If he could let me stay in the waiting room, then how dare he play a little Hitler and accost me in the first place? I told him he was useless and people like him were the reason that customer service in Britain has a terrible reputation. Before leaving, I wrote his name down and told him I would be taking this further. I pointed out that I am a member of the media and would be mentioning him and the company he works for, Midland Mainline, in unflattering ways, on my radio show. Sadly, I have misplaced his name, since then, so I have not been able to fire off an angry letter to his boss.
That reminds me, I asked him for the name of his boss, but he said he didn't know it. "How can you not know the name of the person you report to?" I asked. He gave no reply other than to repeat that he didn't know the name of his boss. All I could note from his name tag was that he was the "duty manager." In any event, I left the station. Fortunately, it was much milder outside than it was the week before. When I returned at 4:20AM, low and behold, when I reached the waiting room, it had more people already waiting there than ever before. This included a group of drunks, being very noisy. So, they had managed to wait there, while the station was closed. In fact, this was the second week in a row that I had encountered drunks at the station. It seems that the duty manager was able to hassle sober customers, but did nothing about drunks. Also, there was a broken glass bottle on the waiting room floor, with spilled liquid, so, obviously, the waiting room hadn't been cleaned.
For the time being, I am going to try to avoid using Midland Mainline trains and stations, whenever possible. I advise you to do the same. So far, their trains have been unimpressive, looking old and dingy. They also seem to employ duty managers who could do more in the customer service department. Now, the big question is, should I pay more to avoid using Midland Mainline, or still use them when they are part of the cheapest connection?

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