Bustitution begins (dubiously)

Well, I used the train-replacement bus for the first time today (Mon 17th Feb 2014). It arrived 10m late, had space for only four bikes (extremely difficult to load), but took just 25m to travel into Oxford Station from Islip.  However, the traffic was light because it is half-term.

For some reason I cannot fathom, it arrived via the A34, instead of Merton.  Perhaps this explains why it was late. This requires it to make a 120-degree turn around Islip war memorial, which, I’m told, has caused it to mount the curb.  Returning to Bicester, it will be forced to cross into the oncoming carriage-way in Bletchingdon Road.

For some reason, bus travel always causes me nausea.  This journey was no exception.

But at least we have something.

I’d be very grateful if others could add comments below regarding the efficacy of the direct service to/from Bicester.  Perhaps by sharing feedback, we can help iron out the wrinkles.

Bus replacement timetable now available

Chiltern have now published their timetable for bustitution of our line on their website here.

Following our feedback, they have now allowed a reasonable time for the journey at rush hour (50 minutes), though obviously there will be considerable uncertainty.  (The A34 seems to jam regularly now on Monday mornings.)

One criticism I have already fed back is the failure to provide a 16.30 departure to Islip, which we did ask for at our meeting, and were told might be possible.  I don’t think it’s fair to ask Islip people to wait until 17.10.

I have also asked for news regarding cycle carriage in general, Bicester stop location and the route through Islip, which I hope will be via Merton.

Please let me (chairman@obrag.org.uk) know of any other issues you spot.

2014 AGM + bustitution meeting

We plan to hold our 2014 AGM a little early in order to allow for feedback to Chiltern in regard to ‘bustitution’ before plans are set in stone.

Thursday 5th Dec, 18.25 – 19.45

(timed for rail arr. 18.10, dep. 20.00)

 Rainbow Room, Bicester Methodist Church

Victoria Road entrance (at back)

Chiltern’s Bevis Thomas has agreed to give a presentation of the current plan for train-replacement bus service between Oxford, Islip and Bicester, and to provide an opportunity for us to offer any final (constructive) criticism and suggestions.

Carnet tickets and fraud

This morning, someone mailed me, yet again, to say they had suffered abuse and false accusation over a rejected carnet ticket; yet again, a woman.  As a result I have, yet again, emailed someone in authority at CR to complain about this abuse of their customers.

I also stopped off today and spoke with the Duty Manager at Oxford station, who responded with a complaint of his own, regarding their belief that there is wholesale fraud being committed by customers with carnet tickets. I pointed out that this, while regrettable (if true), cannot excuse the immediate accusation of fraud, and shouting at, an innocent passenger, attempting to use a carnet ticket honestly. He did at least agree that was unjustified, but made no apology nor any commitment to fix the clearly dysfunctional barrier machines or retrain staff in the art of customer service.

I told him that both I and my wife have demonstrated (to only ourselves, admittedly) that a brand new carnet ticket is quite often rejected by the barrier.  He merely responded by telling me of another machine which is capable of reading the magnetic stripe on the ticket and giving the date of earlier misuse, ‘proving’ fraud. Quite why that machine should be accepted as any more reliable than the barrier eludes me.  I doubt it would hold up under further scrutiny, or in court. Until the system can be verified reliable independently, I believe the allegation of “wholesale fraud” must be regarded with some doubt.

Let me make it clear to any who read this : if you are using carnet tickets fraudulently, OBRAG disowns you and condemns the practise, without reservation.

If, like myself and many others, you find yourself falsely accused of fraud at the barrier then please do the following :

  1. Make a note of the date, time and name (on lapel) of the individual making the accusation, or being abusive.
  2. Demand to have the ticket read by the other machine; if it confirms your innocence then demand an apology, in writing, and a replacement ticket.
  3. If the second machine also indicates misuse, when you are certain the ticket has not been used before, then 1) make a note of the ticket number, or ask for a photocopy, 2) decide for yourself how you wish to take things further, and 3) let me know.

Please make a complaint yourself.

I’m afraid the Duty Manager told me that FGW are petitioning to remove carnet tickets, leaving those (like myself) who regularly, but sparsely, use the service with no discount at all. So the innocent are to be punished, along with the guilty (if indeed they exist).

Finally, he accused me of being hostile toward him, which was quite untrue; I was being very careful with my words, and merely related what had been relayed to me. He said I was shouting, to which I pointed out that I raised my voice only enough to be heard above the din on a busy platform. My wife had a similar experience. So we run the risk of being accused of abuse if we dare to complain. The gulag awaits any who dare.

I have absolutely no desire to be at odds with any operating company – it is singularly unproductive. Neither have I the slightest room for conflict in my life. But this is customer service of the worst imaginable kind, and would never be encountered in the US. The attitude is openly hostile towards customers, and particularly towards those like me who would try to represent them.