Tuesday, December 19, 2006

TfL, get off your knees!

Am I alone in thinking that Transport for London can sometimes be a bit too generous with its information updates? Consider the two very different approaches adopted by the London Undergound and the Montreal Metro.

This morning, while walking through King's Cross station, I heard the following message boomed out over the crackly intercom: "Ladies and gentlemen, the Metropolitan Line is currently experiencing severe delays between Baker Street and Moorgate due to a shortage of staff." A shortage of staff?! Maybe it's just me, but if I were in charge of running the Underground, I'd be pretty embarrassed to 'fess up to such a lame excuse.

In Montreal, if there's a shortage of staff, broken-down train, or some hapless bastard splattered all over the tracks, the train simply doesn't show up. There are no nice LCD display panels to indicate when the next train might arrive, no intercom messages telling you what the problem is, and no staff on the platform for you to ask. If you're naïve enough to go upstairs and ask the chain-smoking woman behind the ticket counter what's going on, she'll shrug at you hostilely from behind the plexiglass and say "Aucune idée." And that, my friends, will be that.

Now, I used to find this attitude incredibly offputting when I lived in Montreal, as it's important to be well-briefed about the public transport situation when you spent two hours a day commuting between the 'burbs and the city. But fuck me. "Shortage of staff"? "Passenger taken ill"? "Late-finishing engineering works"? "(Yet another) signal failure"? There's just something so brow-beaten and defeatist, so openly inept about the whole thing. How are these people going to cope with the crush of extra passengers when the Olympics get going in 2012?

Montreal Metro workers may be arrogant and unfeeling, but at least there's a certain pride in saying, "You know what? I don't have to tell you anything." Or, in true Montreal style, communicating that thought with a gallic shrug of insouciance.


At December 20, 2006 2:07 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pas possible!

At December 21, 2006 7:32 pm, Anonymous Neville said...

Lady M, surely by that you now if you want to live in the UK, you have to put up with this shit every day! I bet there'll be signalling problems on Christmas Day- when trains aren't even running!!

At December 24, 2006 1:51 pm, Blogger Lady M said...

Yes, you're quite right, Neville, this is something I should be used to by now. Still doesn't stop it from grating, though. So much so, in fact, that I have escaped to Montreal for the next two weeks. Merry Christmas!


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