Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bad Customer Service Says We're Home

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bad Customer Service Says We're Home

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID BANKS

RUDE awakenings on our return to the Old Dart (that's Aussie slang for Mother England) came as thick and fast as the snow we've been missing during our trip Down Under. At Heathrow we were forced to remain in our seats while the ground crew defrosted the jumbo jet's door locks, which had frozen solid. The Aussies just laughed at the London lock-in; we Brits on board moaned and groaned about missed connections, which reminded me of a cruel old Aussie joke.

Q: What's the difference between a jet engine and a Pommie? A: At least when a jet lands it stops whining.

Anyway, things got worse at Kings Cross, a station I regard as home base for the North East's own East Coast line but which, given all the redevelopment going on around it, is left looking like a drab disgrace to the nation's capital.

Sitting for a couple of hours in the grandly-named but woefully unwelcoming customer lounge, I counted at least 25 jiggling passengers - most of them elderly and female, some of them disabled - trying in vain to gain access to the oxymoron that is the station's "Accessible Toilet". It's free, but you need a key, making it accessible only to the disabled and the extremely aged who must first make a successful application for admission and only then after they have found someone who will hear their plea for a key.

Why? Because the customer lounge, with its locked "accessible" toilet and its padlocked baby changing room, has no full-time attendant. Two Network Rail staff attended in the time I was there: a young cleaning woman (who very efficiently removed my handwritten sign redirecting would-be users to an alternative pissoir) and a uniformed official who arrived to give the doors a rattle and reassure himself that both were still securely locked and, therefore, unavailable to the travelling public.

Now here's the real rub: upon pointing out these deficiencies in service to the customer information desk (yes, as Mrs B will tell you, I can be a pain in the **** when I'm feeling moody), I was recommended to direct my ire towards Network Rail, the station's management, who charge 20p to visit their alternative "pay-as-you-go in-conveniences". …

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