The last few years have seen a transformation of rail travel in Ireland. After decades of neglect, Irish Rail has received a massive investment of capital. All of the rolling stock has been replaced, (miraculously in the space of a summer Ireland went from having the oldest rail fleet in Europe to having the newest), tracks have been relaid, signals have been upgraded and massive amounts of money has been pumped into station renovations. All good things, however, there’s still something amiss. Why is it that despite all of these improvements, that travelling by train in Ireland is still such a grievous experience? Well one thing hasn’t changed. The attitude. Take this for example:
“Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Iarnród Éireann would like to apologise for the late arrival of this train. The delay was caused by a points failure in Lavetstown. We regret any inconvenience that this delay may cause. As this train is over thirty minutes late, all passengers are entitled to complimentary tea or coffee, which will soon be served to your seat. Once again, we apologise for this delay and thank you for travelling with Iarnród Éireann.”
This is good customer service. This however, is NOT what happened.
At the time of writing, I’m on the Waterford branch line, slowing to a near stop as we attempt to fit onto the mainline at Kildare. The train is nearly forty minutes late. Despite a delay that equates to over half the journey time, no apology was forthcoming. When the train eventually arrived, we got on and not a word was said. We were not welcomed on board, and no one offered an explanation as to why we were late. After about ten minutes, a conductor came into the carriage checking for tickets from any new arrivals. On producing my ticket, I immediately challenging him: “Why is this train late? Why has nobody apologised?”
Without looking at me, he mumbled something about points failure and mentioned that there would be free tea or coffee. His tone was defensive and aggressive. My big problem with this type of behaviour is that I have to look for an apology, whereas good customer service demands that one should be immediately provided. After all the train is not cheap. In fact, it’s a damned expensive means of travel. Eventually, as we pulled into Carlow station, an announcement was made regarding our tardy arrival. However, this was the only announcement that was made. We have been late to every subsequent station, yet no apology has since been offered. This attitude is endemic within Iarnród Éireann and it disgusts me. We pay through the nose for our rail travel and we deserve therefore to be welcomed by courteous and friendly staff. Iarnród Éireann behave has if passengers are an inconvenience, like a scab on the knee, to be flicked off at the earliest opportunity.
Generally people will behave well if they are treated correctly. If there is a delay, passengers will generally be quite accepting of it, provided that the reasons are communicated to us in a respectful and apologetic manner. Iarnród Éireann really needs an attitude readjustment.
It needs to stop treating its passengers with contempt and remember that it’s the passengers who keep the staff in jobs, and not the other way around.