all passengers really want is the basics delivered consistently

As I drove into work this morning, the 5 live phone-in was about the three-day driver strike on Southern Railway.

Apparently, not one single service is running on their network today, and they have told customers not to bother travelling or to seek alternative transport. Naturally, the radio programme was keen to hear about the experiences from as many train users as possible, and unsurprisingly, they were keen to talk.

The first caller was quick to praise Chiltern Railways - "I've never had a problem with them. Their trains are consistently on time, and clean". A few calls down the line, a gentleman praising Virgin Trains - "In ten years, they have generally been on time'. The negative calls also followed a similar theme "They are always late or cancelled", "Considering they are always late the cost is shocking", "I can never get a seat on my way to work".

In a nutshell, criticism was to do with punctuality and reliability, and praise to do with... punctuality and reliability. Both the fundamentals of public transport around the world. Whilst free wi-fi (when it works) and usb chargers are great little extras, they lack substance if the train you are travelling on is an hour late, and results in a missed job interview or client meeting.

A lesson that applies to both rail and bus travel is to get the basics consistently right or as my Mum used to say to me, "don't run before you can walk".


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