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Hillsborough Justice campaign - Remember the 96.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Case No 3459162

Work has changed over the last few weeks. While it is true that the workload has reduced significantly, there have also been some conversations about excessive hours and how these excessive hours may be related to a staff turnover of 33%. More might be said about this in subsequent posts, but for the subject of this note, it is sufficient to say that the Crosstowner and myself arrived at Leeds Station on Friday at the relatively civilized hour of 18.15, fully expecting to board the 18.38 after a nice cup of tea.

Warmish tea secured (£1.05), the Crosstowner and I held back from the press as the usual scrum resolved at the doors of the arriving 730 Turbobooster. There is a rhythm to the arrival of trains. As the train approaches, commuters close formation and creep towards the edge of the platform. When the train stops, people move forward, crowding round doors, giving every impression that as soon as the doors open they are going to pile on to the train, like storming the Bastille. Only when the train doors open does it occur to the crowd (by now a unified organism) that others have to get off, so they all reluctantly back off, leaving the smallest gap for alighters, and as soon as it is possible to board without actually pushing someone out of the way, the crowd push again, totally ignoring the logic that a doorway of certain physical dimensions, by definition, limits the number of humans that can pass through at any time. It is like watching the tide, except that the tide is non-sentient, whereas humans, supposedly are (sentient). By observation, I can report that the same people perform the same pointless experiment every day.

Feeling infinitely superior to the lumpen proletariat, the Crosstowner and I leisurely board the train as the scrum clears, and I secure the bike in the designated bicycle storage area, unpack my newspaper(Amy Winehouse still doing drugs, massive floods in Africa, Blue Peter cat called named Socks despite viewer's TV vote scandal, permafrost melting at unprecedented rates) and begin to plan next blog entry.

"Will the passenger who boarded the train with a bike get off NOW, the train is overcrowded, we cannot carry you", the PA speaker announces. This is an unexpected announcement. A more usual announcement is "Transpennine Express would like to apologize for the late running of this train, and the shortfall of coaches on this service. This is caused by vandalism/squirrels on the line/the sudden appearance of a religious deity outside Brechworth/devolution/post-modernism/ anything except anything that might possibly be TransPennine's responsibility". I realize that the annoucement is directed at me, and the trusty Crosstowner. I hesitate slightly and realize that everyone on the train who wants to get home is looking at me. It's all my fault. I alight the train, embarrassed as only an English person who has been "shown up" can be.

I am extremely angry, but wo'nt relate the whole conversation. All that is needed to be said is that a furious(but swearing free) argument with the Train Manager ensued until he pulled his train out of the station, forcing me to wait the next train (about 1 1/4 hours later). The only reason given is that the train was "overcrowded" and he made a decision based on Health and Safety. My argument - that by this definition the train is overcrowded every day - fell on deaf ears.

I have immediately swung into "campaign " mode. I have complained, case number 3459162, a number that I intend to become every bit as famous as the prison number of the illustrious former President of South Africa. I am going to photograph the train every day, count the passengers, and if necessary, start a Passengers Travel Group. E-mails will flow like rain-drops on the parched plains of Good Customer Service. It is bad enough that TP Express are still using The Great Floods of 07 as an excuse for poor service, worse that they mangle the English language with the whole "Station Stop" nonsense, worse still that the tea they sell is virtually undrinkable, but now, by picking on the CrossTowner (joint third in my affections with Liverpool, and narrowly behind the cats. Oh, yes, and Nel, of course), TP have really crossed the line.

I imagine that when they hear the story, the commuters will flock to the cause. I imagine sit-down protests, ticket strikes, mass mailings, demonstrations and people chaining themselves to the buffet thus preventing the sale of "snacks, light refreshments [undrinkable] tea. coffee, and soft drinks". I already have several campaign slogans - "Arise, commuters of the 7.33 Hull-Leeds Service, you have nothing to loose but your jobs", "We need more 700 Series Units on a daily basis", and "Bikes, not safety".

Watch this space....