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Monday, January 28, 2008

Central Line Smoke without fire

Central Line to Hell by Kinky FantasticMany thanks to London Lass for sending this through, as it "looks" as though there's something to hide about the trains on the Central Line. Basically, a friend of hers had been getting very perturbed about the cancellation of a lot of his trains pre Xmas and wrote to London Underground's customer service department.

Her friend got a remarkably candid email back about motors overheating, smoke coming out of trains and stressing that this "doesn't present any danger to customers". Obviously, they are sorting out the over heating problems and taking out trains to check them. They wrote: "As you can imagine this has meant train cancellations, resulting in customers having to wait longer than usual on occasion. The last thing we wanted to do was to alarm people unnecessarily, hence this hasn't been publicised."

Much as I applaud their honest email (in full here), surely there is some way they can alert regular commuters to this without causing widespread panic & alarm?

Even if they said something like: "You might have noticed that your Central Line service is a bit more rubbish than usual, but we're doing all we can to sort it out, blah, blah, blah". It would have at least acknowledged there's a problem without necessarily saying: "You might have noticed smoke coming out of the bottom of your trains but don't worry that's nothing to worry about".

Commuters aren't stupid and London Underground are well aware that journalists, bloggers and other mouthy people will write about their bad experiences.

Only last week The Guardian's political blogger, Michael White, who, like me, also happens to be a commuter on the District Line, wrote:

"My stretch of the London Underground has been awful for weeks, as a fellow-passenger and I agreed mid-week when our train waited at Hammersmith station because - so the driver announced - we had ''arrived a few minutes early''. Early? They do early? It is only the second time in 40 years I have heard that excuse."

Trains being held up because they're early? Not wanting to unduly worry us because our trains are smoking? Isn't it time for the Tube's press & communications department to put a bit more thought into their work? How can you balance people like drivers and customer service reps being human and making ad-hoc comments, with a much wider responsibility to the public?


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