Alcohol on Trains – And what about Merseyrail Guard McGee?

A recent TV programme on Channel 5 that ran for a number of weeks followed First Great Western staff around as they tried to keep their trains running on time and smoothly despite all kinds of challenges.

But what struck me was the number of times that drunks were a part of their everyday working scene. I have mentioned recently my concerns about our booze dependent culture but here it was laid out before us on prime time TV.

The obvious question that kept coming into my mind was why does First Great Western allow such badly drunken folk onto their trains to create mayhem for their staff and their sober passengers? Indeed, why would any train operator allow this?

And this takes me back to a matter I blogged about some time (21st December 2012) ago when a Merseyrail train guard was jailed for the death of a badly drunken young lady who tragically fell under a train when it left a Merseyrail station. I said at the time that the conviction was wrong and that in my opinion the unfortunate young lady was surely substantially responsible for the situation that she inadvertently put herself in. My views have not changed and I still feel for Christopher McGee the guard who found himself in an impossible situation and was effectively blamed by society through the courts because one of his passengers was acting in a way that was clearly dangerous to her own health and wellbeing.

After watching the Channel 5 programme all I can say is that such a tragedy is going to happen again if train operators and British Transport Police continue to turn a blind eye to those who are dangerously drunk – they should not even be on the station in the first place never mind near a train. A recent Alan Williams article in Modern Railways Magazaine makes this very point very well.

But there is another aspect here and that is the sober passenger. Do train operators think that letting drunks onto their trains is treating the vast majority of the travelling public well? If they do they are in effect knowingly allowing drunks to spoil the journeys of the vast majority of their customers.

McGee was blamed because someone else got drunk – that’s not justice.

Poorly performing railway companies and a poor experience at M&S Warrington.

Last Saturday Sheila said let’s go to that huge M&S next to IKEA so off we went. It was of course heaving but we wanted a coffee and a bite to eat.

In that particular M&S there are two cafes, one of the usual type which had a queue longer than you could shake a stick at, so that was a non-runner. The other named ‘Food on the Move’ was what must be the most inappropriately named café facility you could dream up. No big queue but the order took for ever and the staff looked very stressed to me – not a ‘food on the move’ experience more a ‘stay and wait a good while’. And this takes me to my related story about railway companies.

You see the wait was so long I went to buy a newspaper for something to do. It was the ‘I’ and because I am nuts about railways I found the Simon Calder article on page 41 very interesting if rather frustrating. Suffice to say it was all about a First Great Western service that got stuck going nowhere for a very long time with passengers (note I do not call them customers as they probably had little choice but to use the service) being seemingly treated poorly – lack of information and a far too slow reaction to the broken down train.

And the point of this little rant? Well in M&S you only have to be in the queue to pay for something for a couple of minutes and the person serving you will apologise to you for your wait (they must be told to be this) even if you have not noticeably had one! But no one apologised for our long wait in their café and I wonder if management realised that their staff seemed very stretched indeed. With railway companies, some have got quite good these days in explaining delays, break-downs etc. but others, it seems, just can’t get their heads around why keeping folks informed is so important. What a way to run a railway as someone once said.