Trains so late they won an award

13th January 2006 at 00:00
The train operator "one" - motto "the restaurant service is only for dining" - is always trying to use the English language in clever ways, hence its all-lower-case title.

Its use of the term "customer service" is particularly intriguing.

Sitting on another delayed train into Liverpool Street, passengers would have been astonished to see a picture, in the in-flight magazine "onelife", of a member of the operating company's staff with a brace of high-profile blonde women.

Andrew MacPherson, the customer services director, was being presented with a commendation from the National Customer Service Awards, in the company of the immaculately dressed Leanne Wilson - an actress on Casualty - and Alex Best, former wife of the late George. FErret choked on his now even more over-priced coffee (apparently, in the parallel world of the railways, the inflation rate is now 15 per cent) as he read this puff for one's management.

Far from being anything to do with running the trains on time - surely a basic essential of customer service if you're in the railway business - this commendation was awarded for what the company does when, er, trains run late or are cancelled.

That's right: a "customer service" operation which relies for its existence on trains being late.

The commendation was made in recognition of the company's "industry-leading passenger's charterdelay scheme."

Now, it seems the company is about to get even more public subsidy, this time from the Learning and Skills Council, so that the public can be assured that next time they arrive for work an hour late their complaint will be dealt with by highly-qualified staff.

one's latest venture is in post-16 education - in the guise of a new customer service academy being built at a cost of pound;2 million in Stratford, east London.

This new facility will be in the heart of what is to become the Olympic village and is expected to open next month - in partnership with the London Development Agency and the Learning and Skills Council.

It will include two train driving cab simulators and mock-ups of a carriage - complete, presumably, with mock passengers standing in the aisles and crouching on the floor while a trainee ticket collector stands over them explaining that their ticket isn't valid because they're on a peak time train.

So, with no sign that the delays are going to become any less frequent, and with "customer services staff" soon to be trained to the highest City and Guilds standards, we can, no doubt, look forward to one getting even more awards in the future.

Not only that, but some government training targets will have been met in the process. Anyone got a quid towards a cup of coffee?

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