Fare Evasion on One Railway. Conductors Apparently Don't Care

Regular readers will know of my on-going correspondence with One. Archives of which are available. The latest installment...

To: customer.services@onerailway.com
Subject: Revenue Protection

Sirs, It has been a long time since I have felt compelled to write. There used to be a time when I was quite a regular depositor of (justifiable) rants in your postbag and you will be delighted to know I have shared your insipid responses with friends, colleagues and strangers via the medium of the internet.

My written absence from your desk these past few months has not, I’m afraid to say, indicated that the service from one has improved, rather that I have become more busy and at the same time apathetic to the complete ineptitude and disregard for fare-paying passengers which you clearly display. I write to you today to express concerns about your ability to implement your own policy as I have been prompted into action by a couple of recent encounters on my infuriating (c.f. relaxing) morning commute.

A short while ago you (as one) began to post notices around the stations informing passengers of the imminent roll-out of penalty fare charges for anyone found travelling without a ticket. Previously your correspondence to me had detailed that you only charged this penalty on given routes but you did (eventually) acknowledge that there were a number of people travelling ticketless between rural stations. I believed that these notices indicated you were finally about to get serious about protecting your revenue and ensuring full-fare paying passengers like myself were not subsidising fare evaders.

It appears this revenue protection message has not got through. On repeated occasions I have seen your on-train staff ask for tickets only to be offered money for the fare by travellers without them. A standard fare is purchased and the conductor moves on. Why are people not being charged the penalty?

If no-one is ever charged this penalty then there is no deterrent and people will continue to take the risk to avoid paying. The only occasion I can see this charge being applied is when there is an ad-hoc check on the platform and the revenue-protection staff are backed-up by British Transport Police. Is it the case then that your on-train staff are trained (in your posh new customer service academy) to avoid conflict with passengers and so do not challenge fare evaders?

Do you have any statistics as to how often the penalty fare is being charged by staff on trains?

If you do not charge this penalty fare in all circumstances, remove the notices from stations as these are misleading.

In addition (sorry to go on, but it has been a while and you know how these things build up) the punctuality once again has failed to improve. The last four days this week (22nd, 23rd, 24th and 25th May) the 08.09 from Ipswich has been delayed. Not by enough to make a Delay Repay claim but by enough to inconvenience me, can you explain these delays to me and what it is you’re doing about it as on your website1 it looks like everything is rosey in Dominic’s garden.

I had hoped that when Tim Clarke resigned and Dominic Booth took over you’d all start thinking things really had to improve. They haven’t and you haven’t, it simply isn’t good enough. Why not get your senior customer experience managers to travel the routes and talk to commuters, the people that do this every day. Don’t rely on those daft NX surveys that get handed out at stations every quarter, most commuters I know bin them, talk to us directly.

Alternatively, have a look around on the web in forums, blogs and review sites, see what people are saying about your service, it’s atrocious and it’s not getting better. Everywhere I look there’s incompetence in one railway. Look, for example, at the handling of the Norwich Station improvements. It has taken over six months to simply repaint and re-board the platform roofs and lay tarmac and that’s not even complete yet. It took well over a year to replace the digital departure board at Ipswich … last night (24th May) the 18.30 from Norwich was not cleaned at all before departure and I sat amongst newspapers, cups and filth for my journey home…

Maybe I’m labouring the point but I think you get the picture. At the very least, please respond to my points regarding the penalty fares and, if you feel so-inclined, I’d be delighted to hear your thoughts about the other disappointments I’ve outlined above.

Many thanks for wading through that, I’m genuinely looking forward to your reply. Alternatively why not get someone to actually call and speak to me [number].


TSA Agree, Peter Stephenson is being exploited.

Following my post earlier this week in relation to Peter Stephenson, a Tourette Syndrome sufferer, being exploited in BB7, the BBC report that the Tourette Syndrome Associate (TSA) have concerns over his inclusion.

Roy Hillard (TSA spokesman) seemingly supports my argument adding that the length of exposure and apparent lack of medication will exacerbate the disorder.

Predictably Channel 4 maintain he was picked on his other merits and that his positive approach to his condition made his inclusion even more worthwhile, i'd like to think this was the case but I simply don't buy it and neither, it seems, do the TSA. Channel 4 have, in a vain attempt to deflect some criticism, added a link to the TSA via Peter's profile page.


Demonstrating a Return on Investment (ROI) for Usability

One of the hardest things we usability practioners have to do (besides getting customers/users into a sinister looking testing lab...) is demonstrate to senior managers that usability has a solid cost-benefit case. Since the dot-com bubble burst in 2001 those holding the purse strings have had little time for the sort of gay abandon with which money was thrown at web-related development in the past.

Today almost everything I do has to stack up with figures. Aside from becoming proficient in producing highly-understandable Excel sheets I have had to improve my ability to demonstrate a confident link between changes, improvements and development we make and the bottom-line.

It's all too easy for usability to turn into a subjective argument. My perceptions of a site or application journey are skewed by my experiences and my specialism within the industry. My Mum's perceptions of a site would be similarly skewed by her experiences on Amazon, Friends Reunited and her online banking etc. etc. Both of us have valid comments about the user-experience but making these objective require a specific approach.

The key is to divide the experience into discrete, mutually-dependent fundamentals: the brand, the content, the usability and the intended function. Under each fundamental element we can score the experience on a polarised scale (1-5). We then have a total user-experience score out 20. Each element needs some parameters of course and that's where I'm going to be discrete, I have my opinions but ultimately my job depends (for these are the tools of the trade to some extent) on keeping this kind of information back.

Of course, once you have a set of quantifiable user metrics you can add your business-related metrics to them: click-through, conversion, keyword density, unique views, session time etc. etc. Plotting the user data against the bottom-line data will indicate if your development is effective.

Of course, this only works if you've got a site/application to work on and if your user-centric design is about evolution rather than creation. If you want to know how to convince your stakeholders that user-centred design is required from day 0 of the project, you'll have to wait for another blog entry later ...

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