I believe its probably fair to say that I get on quite well with Greater Anglia… in the most part. Sometimes I get a little frustrated with them when my train is late or when I buy my ticket in the morning and see, once again, that it is really just daylight robbery… that’s my opinion and I realise others – like Sheila or Bruce – might have other opinions. However, sometimes I am out there on my own and I need to get on with it.
Like yesterday, for example. I knew the signs were there that it was going to be a serious slog on the iron road. Little things – trains being cancelled due to a fault, the day being a Thursday, signs saying “it’ll be a hard slog today” and so on. Oh – and a train ticket that said “Braintree”. I’d been asked to go at short notice – no time to book the journey there and definitely way of knowing what time I should return – this is not a slur on Braintree, just I’d not been there before.
To kick off, it seemed that Lady Luck (one of the guys at Witham) was on my side – I arrived in to Witham in the morning and in seconds… alright – two minutes – I was off the train, over the bridge and on to the next train out – they held it for me. I was (and still am) grateful.
I got to Braintree about 9:10 or so, assisted by a driver rather than the ticket office staff who were caught up in a micro rush. Coffee there, by the way – 80p more than Clacton station. I got on and took some photos as it was a nice day before heading off to a school in Bocking for a Try a Bus Day.
I value these days – they help a lot of people spark that first step – often the next is travel training. But that first introduction to the bus (or train) is a key element – done correctly, it sets the idea going that a person can travel. I think its vital work.
After this and a meeting (and lunch) I headed back to the station, my charmed existence running out by this time. It was 16:15. When I got to the station, I found it was unstaffed. Empty. Deserted. Devoid of human members of the Greater Anglia fraternity. People had gone home. There would be no fandango. Beeching had swung his axe. It was an ex-staff afternoon. There was no one there. It is an unstaffed station.
Its in times like this that many people would either panic, sit tight and hope it would turn out ok or go home.
I turned to twitter. “@greateranglia arrived at Braintree. No staff here! HELP!” Bearing in mind that there had been an incident on two other lines – one involving a serious accident and another involving serious signals – I wasn’t hopeful. But I regularly tweet them, so I crossed my fingers. And my legs. I might have been a little bit busting, as Monkey would say.
A few minutes later I got a reply: “Just calling them now”… and then, a message via the great unknowns of DM: “Call us – [number]”.
This was new – but a quick way to sort it. I called, established with them that there was no one there. The guy on the phone – GK was also on the phone to Witham, who had put a ramp on the next train coming up with the guard. This meant that i could get on my train with the assistance I need.
This does raise a question for me though – what if I didn’t know the Greater Anglia staff as well as I do? What happens if someone else finds themselves stranded? Very few train operators leave their twitter accessed after 7-8PM, so what happens later at night? If there was ever support for a business case needed – surely this is the key item to support it.
Some might argue I should book – but there is no requirement for me to book as I only require a ramp to access the train, therefore no actual other assistance. Couple that with the unpredictability of my work travel and its rare I can and do book.
I got home bang on time – thanks to the quick reactions of the people on Twitter at Greater Anglia. It shows that once again Social Media is useful. I just hope others have the confidence to do the same as I did in the future and that train companies react in the same way Greater Anglia did for me.