Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The strange case of the unsackable train driver and his evil-incarnate passenger

A train driver with a history of being abusive to the public tells a passenger on “his” morning peak-hour train to get off. To merit this drastic action, the passenger had apparently held a door open for a stranger (running along the platform* to catch the train) for a longer time than the driver deemed reasonable. However, the passenger in question’s co-passengers mutinied at the driver’s eviction order. This mutiny then caused the driver to chuck a spazz, walking off and abandoning his train 20 km from the city, and causing several other trains behind to have to wait, as well.

For this serious inconvenience to hundreds of commuters, that arose solely through the voluntary actions of the driver (i.e. not technical malfunction, etc), I would have expected two main outcomes:

(i) the driver to be summarily dismissed
(ii) Connex (the private train operator in question) to appropriately apologise to, and financially compensate, all affected commuters – and especially the passenger at the centre of the drama.

No and no. The driver in question has merely been re-assigned to other (= non-train driving duties), while Connex maintains that the passenger who held the door open was in the wrong: End of Story.

I’m guessing that the driver is a baby boomer – I honestly can’t imagine any other reason why this piece of excreta should today have a job that is paid for by commuters’ money (as well as a big fat dollop of taxpayer subsidy, of course). Maybe Connex is unduly fearful of a union backlash if it did sack the driver, but somehow I doubt it. Connex's contempt for the passenger who held the door open (an Xer holding it open for another Xer, BTW) indicates that chucking workplace spazzes is in fact a highly-regarded attribute among Connex’s senior management.

* The precise facts here are in dispute. Connex’s version is that the woman for whom the door was being held open was still buying a ticket at a machine – i.e. holding a door open while she completed this transaction and *then* ran to catch the train was simply not on. The Connex PR department’s version (together with the demonstrably-false detail that the woman was the door-holding guy’s “mate”) is found here.

The alternative version, involving first-hand accounts of the door-holding guy and the running (not ticket-buying, she says) woman, was on last night’s TV news.

Even if the Connex version of events is accepted in toto, plainly its considered PR response (and lack of action otherwise) is a dual abomination.

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