Tim Clarke, MD of one, resigns

I wanted to open this blog entry with the line “today I got an early Christmas present” but, as I hope you’ll soon discover that isn’t really the feeling I want to capture. I’m actually disappointed. A bit like opening said present and discovering that it’s not quite what you wanted it to be, an Action Man without working limbs for example.

Regular readers of my blog (aside: may have been disappointed recently by the lack of entries) will know of my frustration with one railway. Only last night I threw away all the letters I had stored up following compensation claims for punctuality problems in the last 18 months. I had intended to log these and produce some kind of graph for you all, the true figures of performance shame but instead one did it themselves.

They released figures this week that were awful. Dropping from 88% punctuality (2004) to 81% (2005). The thing is, this represents all journeys on the London-Norwich route, taken over the commuting peak period I bet it’s so much worse. The figures from the rail regulator show that the train companies are still nowhere close to punctuality figures from seven years ago when the average age of rolling stock on the lines was, on average, 10 years older.

In April 2004 Tim Clarke, existing MD of Anglia was unveiled as the new MD of one. He bought with him all the problems of the old network but presented a vision of the new and, to be fair, things did improve a little. Statistically, more trains were provided, more punctuality and reliability. But in the last quarter we have experienced some horrendous episodes and despite peculiar recognition at customer service awards he has stepped down. These awards are the result of innovation in customer service – i.e. their Delay Repay scheme: acknowledging that they get things wrong, not necessarily doing this with compassion, competence or the intention to improve it. This system is flawed, both for the customer and the company:

1. The company have to pay out vouchers and this must inevitably cost them money. If it doesn’t it costs Network rail money who then can’t invest it in improving the service.
2. The customer gets a voucher which, if they are a non-London commuter, is useless unless you store them all up to offset the season ticket each year. By which £50 (last year’s income from claimed compensation) off a £2300 season is just over 2% … this infers that 98% of the service I paid for was acceptable. Simply untrue.

You’ll see from previous letters, most notably this one, that one don’t actually have any innovative ideas about customer service. They’ve developed one as a way to say “we’re doing something” but it’s the whole package that’s in need of innovation. In a way it’s disappointing that an MD has to resign as it’s not useful to have to start again, at least Tim knows the line, knows the organisation and knows what needs to be done it’s just so sad that the whole team don’t seem to have the answers. I’m guessing we’ll see a grand announcement shortly after Christmas as to who’s to take over and loads of talk of new trains, better service etc. etc. But much of this will already have been set-up by Tim Clarke and the momentum will already be there. What will really happen is we’ll have a honeymoon period of good intentions and a desire to improve followed by further stagnation. Until train operators start employing visionary charismatic leaders (like Branson) and use the energy and innovation seen outside the sector, more heads will roll and the trains, increasingly, will not.

Footnote: one recently sponsored an Anglia business award, the award for customer service in fact. I'm not sure whether this demonstrates intent or irony.


smorgasbord-design said...

Norwich's EDP have released an article today which quotes a few of the people involved in the current changing of the guard at one.

The official line is that the resignation is one designed to strengthen the management team and goes on to cite recent 'mixed fortunes'. The gradually refurbished rolling stock they refer to is still poor. I've travelled on four-five of these refurbed trains and they consist of a lick of paint, new seat coverings and carpets and working internal doors. That's it. the heaters are still intermittent and the PA system regularly silent. The EDP claim one are narrowly failing to meet targets. In that case the targets are WAY off.

It quotes 'one' as saying that Dominic Booth will build on achievements to date. In the same way, presumably, the Olympic stadium will be built on 'work to date' which consists of a cut turf.

What's more odd though is the positive bent from John Woods, VC of the Norfolk and Norwich Transport Action Group. He talks of 'recent improvements' - where? I concede that many recent problems have been Network Rail's fault but the plain fact of the matter is that one do not communicate information to passengers and their Customer Service operation is understaffed. The screens at Ipswich still do not work in the waiting room or station lobby and we waited in the cold and dark earlier this week while they cancelled a train (the 07.42 to Norwich) and made no visual or audible annoucement. This sort of behaviour is unforgivable.

smorgasbord-design said...

The article is at http://snipurl.com/kzpi