John C. Kirk (johnckirk) wrote,
John C. Kirk

The ups and downs of being a public spirited citizen around public transport...

A few weeks ago I was coming home late, and wound up waiting at Waterloo Bridge for a while for a bus to turn up. There was an automated ticket machine bleeping (some kind of error), so I figured that I might as well phone the number they gave to report it. I was expecting an answerphone, but I actually spoke to a person (almost immediately) who took down the machine's ID number and said he'd send someone out. He asked whether I needed a refund (if I'd put money in and not received a ticket) but I told him I already had a travelcard, so he seemed pleasantly surprised and grateful that I'd made the effort to help them out - in return, that was a nice reaction that cheered me up for my journey.

Last week I was coming back late again, so I used a Cadbury's vending machine at a tube station to get a chocolate bar. Or at least I tried to, but it didn't work and the coin return slot was jammed up. Again, I phoned it in (this time I did leave a message at the answerphone) - it was only 60p, so not a huge amount, but I left my address anyway. I've now had a £1.50 voucher through the post, with a nice letter of thanks/apology, so that's all turned out well.

So, the people who run vending machines all seem to be doing a decent job. Sadly, the staff who handle medical emergencies aren't keeping on their toes quite as well.

On Thursday evening I'd just gone through the ticket barriers at East Croydon (on my way out) when I heard an announcement over the tannoy, asking for a doctor or nurse to go to platforms 1 and 2. I'm neither, but I do have first aid skills; in fact, I did my AED requal on Wednesday evening, which included my first assessment under the new resuscitation protocols. So, I figured it would be worth going along to see what was happening and offer my assistance - if there was already a doctor present then I could leave him/her to it, but if I was the only one around then I might be able to make myself useful. So, I went down there (one shared platform area between two tracks), where a train was just leaving platform 1. This was quite convenient, because it meant that the member of staff who'd waved it off was now free, so I approached him.

Me: "Excuse me."
Him: "Yes?"
Me: "I heard your announcement saying that you were looking for a doctor or a nurse?"
Him: "Um, hang on."

He didn't know anything about it, so he used his radio to call into control. He didn't get a reply, possibly because his radio wasn't working, so he then went into the little shed thing to use the bigger radio there. Still no reply, and the other 2-3 members of staff in there didn't seem to know anything about this either. While he was waiting, I clarified that I was just a first aider, not an actual doctor or nurse, and he nodded. When someone did reply to his radio call, he then said "I've got a nurse here"... Anyway, he wound up getting bounced around a few people, as each person he spoke to told him to call someone else.

By this point it was literally 5 minutes after the original announcment, so I was hoping that it wasn't, y'know, an actual emergency or anything like that! Anyway, he eventually got through to someone, and I heard them say "It's ok, I've got someone with medical skills here". That's a slightly vague description, which makes me wonder whether they were a first aider too. Anyway, the guy I was with then turned to me to relay this message, and he got about half way through the sentence "Ok, it looks like we don't need you, but thanks anyway", then he was interrupted by something in the shed. I wasn't particularly bothered about being thanked, but I thought it would be rude to walk off, so I hung around. After a minute or so, he was carrying on his conversation with the other person, so I did leave, and waved through the window at him to let him know. He then stuck his head back round the door to say "Ah, yes, thank you", which I acknowledged.

All in all, no harm done, so I guess there's a happy ending. However, to use the cliche, it's a hell of a way to run a railroad... Why didn't the staff on that platform know anything about this? I remember totherme talking about the tendency to ignore announcements while travelling (on the basis that they're mostly irrelevant), so maybe the same thing applies to people who hear them all day? The thing is, presumably some other member of staff had told the tannoy guy about the need for a doctor/nurse, but this message hadn't gone through the staff channel either. I don't blame the people I spoke to; I suspect that this is a management issue, either because they don't have a protocol for this type of situation or because the staff haven't been trained in how to follow it. I probably ought to report this to someone, but I fear that it would fall on deaf ears, based on past experience; it's been almost two years since I contacted London Transport about smoking on buses, and they've never replied. I think the best bet for next time is just to ignore the staff and walk the length of the platform myself, looking for the casualty, even though this seems like a sub-optimal solution.
Tags: customer service, intervention, sja
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