Lies, damned lies and railway timetables

This is a classic example of how a company will dodge and evade responsibility for its own failings.

It is the story of the 7.29 am Brighton to London Victoria train service. There were a series of critical stories in the press when it failed to arrive on time for each of its 240 journeys last year. Southern Rail has responded to the criticism by adding three minutes to the journey time and removing one stop.

The statement issued by the company to justify its actions was a classic of its kind. A spokesman said: “These changes have been designed to improve performance across the Southern network, and particularly on the Brighton line, which is one of the busiest routes in the country.

“A small delay on this line can have serious knock-on effects leading to widespread delays, so re-timing some trains to leave earlier and altering some calling patterns will distribute trains on the line more evenly and allow more room to keep trains running on time.

“These new changes are designed to build on those we have already made which are working well, and we expect them to help to improve punctuality further.”

Look first at the way the spokesman makes a generalised comment rather than addresses the specific issue. It is typical of corporate evasion rule book – always start the answer with a broad policy statement rather than a specific answer.

Then note the claim that, even though the journey will be longer and there will be fewer stops, the changes are designed to improve performance.

So, meeting a later arrival time is defined as a greater punctuality. Look too at the evasive phrasing – they use “re-timing” when they mean extending the journey time and changing “calling patterns” instead of cancelling stops.

Do they really think that they fool anyone with this linguistic corruption.

But, as always, most significant is the use of the passive in the first sentence. “These changes have been designed…”

The changes must have been decided by a group of individuals and one person must have taken ultimate responsibility for. However by using the passive, the spokesman can evade and avoid having to say who decided on the changes.

Southern Rail’s response was pretty standard public relations – it says everything about it that it cannot be bothered to make anything more than an off-the-peg response to changes which will have a major impact on their customers.


2 thoughts on “Lies, damned lies and railway timetables

  1. Well said Nigel.
    Keep up the probing and the good work here.
    Or put another way:
    We here have considered all of the important issues Mr Dudley raises and we conclude that there may be some merit in raising such issues but it is probable that nothing much will change.

    Liked by 1 person

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