Nov 6, 2009

The little train conductor who couldn't

If I have to go downtown during rush hour and I plan to spend the day, I take the train. It's relatively comfortable, it's stress-free, and doesn't take much more time than driving.

The agency in charge of the train service around Montreal, the AMT, has been working hard to get people from the suburbs to leave their car at home (or in the free parking spaces) and to take the train instead. It has worked relatively well, until this year.

Last winter, a couple of the busiest lines had major mechanical problems during winter months, which caused passengers to be stranded on platforms, with plummeting temperatures and blistering winds. Not surprisingly, this has lead to a decline in ridership on the lines that were most affected.

I applaud the AMT's efforts to address the mechanical issues and I hope they are successful. I also hope they will be training their employees.

Today, about 25 other passengers and I were left stranded on the train station's platform, because of a stupid employee. Here is what happened: where I take the train, there are four tracks so at any given time, there could conceivably be four trains present. This morning, at around 7:50, a freight train showed up. At about 7:56, the commuter train pulled in also, but the freight train was still running.

At about 7:57, the last car of the freight train finally pulled away and all 25 would-be passengers ran to the commuter train. The first of the lot was about 20 feet from the train door when the conductor decided to pull away. He just stood on the steps of the car, looked at the helpless people looking at him, and shook his head as if he were powerless to do anything about it.


The previous day, the exact same thing happened, although earlier in the day. However, when we reached the car, the conductor smiled and said: "You were scared, weren't you? When I saw the train I figured I would just wait a bit to give you guys a chance."

So it wasn't that this morning's conductor couldn't wait a few more seconds, it's just that he chose not to. He didn't want to fall behind his schedule so he saved those precious few seconds by pulling away while leaving 25 customers fuming and, who knows, maybe some will lose their jobs because of this.

Some might think: "It's important to keep the train on schedule for the benefit of the other customers." To which I say: "I agree." However, 1) I don't think that a few seconds would have been that big of a deal and 2) the trains periodically run late for other reasons (like people working on the tracks).

As far as I'm concerned, this morning's display was shameful customer service.

No comments:

Post a Comment