A ticket machine can't make the tea

PUBLISHED: 09:28 15 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:58 11 May 2010

BY NO stretch of the imagination am I a technophobe. Generally, I think computers and the internet are marvellous, and wonder how people managed without being able to check their emails, catch up on the football news, and look up former school friends on

BY NO stretch of the imagination am I a technophobe.

Generally, I think computers and the internet are marvellous, and wonder how people managed without being able to check their emails, catch up on the football news, and look up former school friends on Facebook.

But I do find it ridiculous that we live in a world where it is becoming increasingly difficult to speak to a real person.

This week train operator First Capital Connect hit unsuspecting train users with their latest scheme to "improve efficiency" - namely cutting the opening hours at Meldreth Station ticket office.

"Evidence now shows that increasing numbers of our customers prefer to use ticket machines, which can typically dispense 90 per cent of all ticket types, usually within 60 seconds," said a First Capital Connect spokesman.

I'm sure this is probably true, but can a ticket machine make cups of tea for its regular customers while they wait for their trains?

Would a ticket machine ring people at home to let them know if their train is delayed?

Because this is the kind of high level of customer service that David Piggott provides for users of Meldreth Station.

In all probability Mr Piggott will still be around under the new arrangements, but is there really any point making these adjustments when, by most people's reckoning, he is doing such a brilliant job?

And the fact that the changes are being introduced at such short notice suggests that they knew it would not go down well with the customers, so again, why do it?

As Cllr Susan van der Ven says, it seems more than a little cynical on the part of the train company.

But moreover it seems to me that this is indicative of a wider problem in a society, where human contact is becoming more and more illusive.

And it would be unfair to just pick on First Capital Connect, when the same can be said of plenty of other companies.

The other day I spent an hour attempting to ring BT to pay my bill.

A simple task you may think, but one rendered more difficult by the fact that they don't print a phone number on your bill any more.

A perusal of their website also failed to yield a single mention of a customer service number.

And if you can't even phone a phone company, then what hope is there for the rest of industry?

If you ask me it is about time that firms started to realise that, while technology can be put to use fantastically in many situations, there are some instances where you can't beat the personal touch.

I would urge anyone who values the work of people like Mr Piggott to get in touch with First Capital Connect and let them know.

Many rural stations across the country already go unstaffed, and we don't want Meldreth to be added to that list.

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