9.7.13

NO WAY TO ENCOURAGE REPEAT BUSINESS.

The dining car on Amtrak's Silver Star suffers a failure in the running gear about two miles from the Richmond, Virginia station.  What happened next was not amusing.
"The dining car developed axle problems that disabled the train 2 miles north of the Staples Mill Road Station in Richmond around 5:30 p.m. Sunday," said Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods, via e-mail. "The dining car couldn't be moved or cut out at the scene, because of the axle problems."

"The train was between stops so safely removing the passengers or arranging alternate transportation was too problematic," Woods said.

"The train began a very slow move (at 3:45 a.m.) to a siding in Richmond and arrived to the station just after 6:30 a.m. and a replacement car was added," she said. "The train resumed its trip around 7:12 a.m." (A siding is a section of track off the main line.)
"Problematic" is a weasel word that means nothing. Since headquarters ultimately figured out how to drag the cripple to Richmond and set it off, there had to exist some way to drag the cripple a shorter distance, say to a road crossing, and allow the passengers to disembark.  There's no mention in the story about the effects of this delay on at least one following Northeast Regional train or the Silver Meteor, which leaves New York later in the day on the Florida run. At that hour of the evening, there might be some school buses or city transit buses coming off of peak hour duties available.

What is clear, though, is that "there's nothing we can do" and "thank you for your patience" does not encourage repeat business.
Passenger Kevin Smith was frustrated at how long it took Amtrak to solve the problem.

"If you are a corporation that alienates its customer base, you ain't going to have customers," Smith told CNN affiliate WTVR. "I think Amtrak could have solved this a lot sooner."

Smith didn't fault the Amtrak employees on board, calling them fellow victims of the delay. "The employees can't be faulted here. It's obvious there's an equipment problem."
There's also a problem with management, and perhaps with the legal department's attitudes toward legal liability.

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