I went for a drink last night near St Pancras station – an easy journey to make; up to London Bridge, and change for for a First Capital Connect (Thameslink in old money) train through to St Pancras. Easy. Well, not so. Southeastern wasn’t having a brilliant evening, and the indicator on platform 6 at London Bridge may as well have been replaced by a magic 8-ball, as usual.
But the First Capital Connect train pulled in on time, and off we chugged up to Blackfriars – taking it very slowly indeed. At Blackfriars, we sat in a platform for 15 minutes, for apparently a train had broken down ahead of us and needed to be put away in the sidings by City Thameslink. We didn’t actually move again until an out of service train passed us heading south. Scores of passengers joined us from the broken down train at City Thameslink, and the train became busier still at Farringdon.
There’d been no warning of any problems at London Bridge, I should mention.
I reckon we were 20 minutes late by the time the train got to St Pancras, where another huge crowd squeezed on. Here, there was a commotion on the platform – a PSCO confronting an angry passenger.
What was going on? I’m not quite sure, but a voice cut through loud and clear.
“I’m the station manager, and I’ve called the police because you tried to take a picture of one of my staff.”
I can only guess that the passenger had a row with a staff member, and decided to try to take a photo of her to assist him in making a complaint against her. No idea who was in the right or wrong.
But since when was taking a photo illegal? I thought I’d take another picture, in that case.
I’ve blanked out the passenger’s face, while the station manager is second from the right in this scene. Whatever happened between the angry customer and the staff member, unless he was threatening her or being abusive, I’m not quite sure what the station manager aimed to achieve by hauling this bemused blue-badge down to remonstrate with this angry passenger. Unless he wanted to inflame tensions even further, of course. The impression I got was of a company that, like Southeastern, has lost control and perspective of how it deals with its passengers.
Abusing or threatening railway staff is always wrong – one thing that concerns me about the way some people are dealing with the implosion of Southeastern’s service is that they see platform staff as fair game for stick.
But the poor way in which the privatised train companies deal with delays can provoke people to acts which they’ll later regret. As I left St Pancras station, I turned around to see what information First Capital Connect was giving passengers about the rotten service before people left the shops and cafes of St Pancras and descended down to platforms which, among other things, have no mobile phone reception…
Those empty blue boards read: “Please listen for announcements.” No wonder why people were pissed off. I wonder how many police hours have been wasted intervening in disputes which could be easily solved by these private train monopolies actually providing decent information.