16 August 2005

Kidnapped

I don't have much patience with those who spend a lot of time whining about the trains. I don't see obvious signs of gross stupidity or incompetence, and the regular problems - delays due to mechanical failures, weather, staff shortages, whatever, can only obviously be fixed by spending more money, which would have to come from me or from taxpayers.


So in the normal way of things, the fact that I was delayed by 40 minutes coming home on Friday would not be anything to make a fuss of.


On this occasion, the train reached Luton in good time. However, the door didn't open. Pointing this out to a nearby member of the catering staff, we were told there was a problem with the door but it would open in a minute. After a couple of minutes, an announcement came that passengers in the rear four coaches should move up to the first class area to exit the train. Five or six of us did so, but on reaching the first class area we were informed that we were too late, that the doors were closed and could not be re-opened.


The train at this point was still stationary at the platform.


Again, if it were true that it was impossible (or unsafe) to open the doors at that point, then the whole thing would have been a badly handled technical problem - basically business as usual. But I seriously doubt that. I suspect that, at the cost of some delay and inconvenience, the train could have been held and we could have been allowed to leave the train. The staff involved chose to avoid that inconvenience by taking several passengers ten miles out of their way.


I don't like whining - what am I going to do about this that is productive? First, advice. If you are on a Midland Mainline train and the doors don't open, immediately raise hell. Ignore what you are told, charge up and down the train looking for a working door, and make a lot of noise. If there is any suggestion that you will not be allowed to leave, pull the emergency alarm without hesitation.


This is the opposite of what I would previously have advised. For the sake of safety and smooth running, one should stay calm, follow instructions, and trust that you will be treated reasonably. My bitterness is due to that trust to have been proved to be misplaced.


The second step I am considering is going to the police. If a taxi driver, say, refused to let a passenger out at the destination, and abandoned them ten miles away, I'm sure criminal charges could be brought. Since, in this case, I believe that a deliberate decision was made not to let us off where they had agreed to do, the situation appears to be equivalent. I can't be bothered asking for compensation for what is, in effect, a fairly ordinary delay, but the member of the train staff that decided to keep us on a train against our will and against the prior agreement ought to be fined or imprisoned.

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