Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Works in Waterloo: an improvement or just a cash making scheme?

The Evening standard continues with their objective questionable journalistic, er, standards and regurgitates yet another press pack, this time from Network Rail for a change:
Waterloo station turns trendy as Carluccio's, Corney and Barrow, and Thomas Pink open up on new concourse - Transport - News - Evening Standard

Just to put things in perspective:
1. On congestion, Network Rail have made it worse by making the underground concourses longer and shut outside of peak hours

2. The Eurostar platform has been mothballed for the last 5 year... with four EMPTY platforms -quite a disgrace.

3. Finally, are they going to pull down that hideous screen/wall between the concourse and the plaforms? There's no reason Waterloo can't be as beautiful as the Gare du Nord in Paris.

To me it seems the only goal of this revamp is to provide more retail space, in other words it's a cash generating scheme that adds no benefits to the commuters.

Previous posts on Water-loo station: 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Lobbies and lazy journalism

Crisis: Queues at Heathrow Terminal 5 today
Here's a great example of lobbies taking over column inches, in this case on a subject that's close to my heart:
David Cameron told: Act now to save Heathrow Airport - Transport - News - Evening Standard

Prime example of lazy "journalism", writing up a quick piece straight off the press pack from BAA. Any proper newspaper article would have tried to show both sides of the story, with counterpoints.

I hope Jonathan and Lucy enjoyed a really nice lunch paid for by Ferrovial (BAA's Spanish owner) and a few nice gifts too.

Just a reminder to set the record straight, London has FIVE international airport (actually, now SEVEN if you count Manston and Southend), totalling seven runways (not including the unused backup one at Gatwick), most being under-used. Heathrow is a WWII planning mistake, its flight path goes over 2m people. Those five airports handle over 130 millions passengers on their six runways, about 150% of the traffic in Paris (LHR + CDG).

It's about time we stop comparing LHR to other European cities and instead do what they've done: build a new airport with enough room for expansion. If it needs to be in the Thames estuary, so be it. 

Previous posts on the same subject:

Friday, May 04, 2012

Barclaycard, you're failing to provide a good customer experience to commuters

This is a follow-up from my previous post: Dear BarclayCard...
My beef with BarclayCard (BARC:LN, @barclaycard) isn't over, I'm actually quite annoyed now.

My advice to Barclays? If your brand name is associated to transportation services, you should ensure a good customer experience. Failing to do so impacts negatively your brand.

Here's a quick summary:
-          I own a BarclayCard Visa that comes with an OysterCard built-in. Barclays sent me a new card and the Oyster stopped working. Resolving this is quite an annoyance. In the Twitterverse we'd say #fail.
-          I also use Barclays Cyclehire, in fact another TfL service, sponsored by the same bonus-happy bank. I use it everyday but it turns out they can slap you a £150 fine just because their processes are also a #fail. That's more than an annoyance

Failure number one: Barclays, when you send me a new card, just make sure it works
-          I've got a Barclaycard VISA, coming with no less than four payment mechanisms: a magnetic strip, a chip (and PIN), a contactless payment chip (RFID) and an Oyster card.
-          It expired, so they sent me a new one.
-          Because I suspected their processes would be sub-optimal, I called them up to ensure the Oyster would be transferred across to the new card. They assured me it was or would be but I still did not trust them. You see, when I wanted to move from a BarclayCard Platinum to that BarclayCard Oyster, they got me to re-apply just like for a new card. I wasn't impressed, after being a client for over 10 years. So, I did not destroy the old card straight away, just in case…
-          As I feared, the Oyster card did not work.
-          I sent an email to complain and ask Barclays to fix this. They tried to call me when I was at work and after several tries I ended up to speaking to a Barclaycard call-centre agent (actually very nice and patient) who could not solve my problem and had to transfer me to TfL.
-          In between those calls, I tried to register my new Oyster card on the TfL website (turns out the number is on the back of the Barclaycard) but that did not work either. See, Barclaycard registered my card already but did not give me the password.
-          When I finally got to speak with TfL agents, they were equally patient, well trained and polite. They  transferred the balance from the old virtual (because it's on my Barclaycard) Oyster card to the new one. But then to complete it, I have to predict where I'll touch in next as they me to tap my Oyster card on a specific tube station within 8 days. I don't usually commute by tube, so it's hard to know where and when I'll next start a tube journey.
-          The next process failure I have experienced, still speaking with TfL is that once they transfer the balance of an Oyster card and until you've tapped it on a reader at the designated station, you can't transfer the 'auto top-up'. Which I had to do because my old Barclaycard wasn't valid anymore, remember?

Failure number two: Barclays, the Borisbikes give you a bad name
-          I should make clear that just like I am well aware that TfL and Barclays are two distinct companies, I know Barclays only sponsors the London bike rental scheme, which is in fact sub-contracted to Serco –the guys who run the prison vans and other stuff.
-          This is not to complain there's never enough bikes or point that it's ridiculous to require buying a separate key while they could use an Oyster card to unlock your bikes. Actually, given what's above, one could think not using Oyster would be a good thing…
-          It's not. Here's what happened to me. To use bikes, you need to buy a key for £3. You can then set it up and once you unlock your bike you pay £1 for a 24h access period. The actual rental is free for 30 mn. Fair enough.
-          I've used it 3-5 times a week for almost a year, with only hassles when I can't find a bike (the un-predictability isn't great if you have a morning meeting) or can't return them (which means missing your train).
-          Trouble starts if you use your bike after the 'access period' has ended. The problem is that the access period isn't renewed automatically if you're on the bike, resulting in a £150 fine! If you're like me, you're thinking who's going to want to lug those heavy beasts for over 24 hours? But if for instance your train is late on day 1 (I hear it can happen sometimes) and you pick a bike up at say 0830. If on day two you pick a bike up at for instance 0829, cycle to your destination and dock it at 0834, you're done. Bang, they've slapped you a £150 fine.
-          This happened to me. For 40 seconds.
-          Of course it doesn't make sense, but try to explain common sense to TfL.

Bottom line: Barclays should ensure that customer experience is good for services they lend their name to. Failing to do this damages their reputation –exactly the point of this blog post.

Some conclusions for Barclays:
-          Don’t expect your customers to do the leg work: I'm a customer and if break it, I expect you to fix it
-          Make sure you communicate all the information you need (including passwords) on all the products you have on a given card

Some advice to TfL:
-          The obligation to touch in at a given tube station to complete an action is impractical
-          The quality of service for the Boris Bikes is not great but you should at least fix the processes that are plainly wrong

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Dear BarclayCard...

Barclaycard OnePulseI like two in ones. Go-fast estate cars. Choc-biscuits. Fridge-freezers.  The idea of a Swiss knife usually works: unless you're after something heavy duty, it does the everyday jobs well -like corking a wine bottle and spreading chese on a ciabatta. So I thought if the concept works for picnics, it might help reducing the number of cards I've got to carry and went for a Barclaycard that does Visa and Oyster. 
Turns out two-in-ones are good for tools but combo's don't really work in the financial world, just like for food -just like a surf'n'turf never does justice to either.
See for yourself my email to Barclays. What do you think?

Dear Barclaycard,

A while back I moved from a Platinum card to a Barclaycard-Oyster. I thought the process was pretty clunky when you got me to re-apply for a new card, having been a customer for about 10 years but never mind.

You sent me a brand new card a few months ago and I thought I'd better check if my Oyster card would be transferred. The call centre agent told me "yes". Turns out it's the wrong answer.

Could you please fix this?

PS: I don't really care who's right or wrong, that TfL is not Barclays, etc. The card says Barclays, so you really ought to pull yourselves together and resolve this.

Thanks in advance,