Monday, 5 August 2013

Open Letter to Metrolink

Dear Mr Cushing, Metrolink Director

Thank you for your message earlier today. I read it on my phone as the rain predictably beat down on to Shudehill platform and I faced my third or fourth major Metrolink delay of the week. Fortunately the 25 minutes or so spent huddling under my umbrella, internally raging, gave me some time to contemplate. You've asked for people to get in touch, so here are eight things I would consider / implement if I were in your shoes, or Replacement Footware Services, as I'm sure you call them.

1. No one wants to go to Droylsden.

I asked a couple of colleagues who sit near me at work, a few people on the platform tonight and my friend Jamie and not a single one of them had any interest in going to Droylsden. Yet you've built a massive tram line there, probably using decent stuff that we could have used to sort out all the old shit that doesn't work on the current lines.

So how about replacing the signals, track and other stuff that's fucked before building additional lines to Droylsden, Reddish, Farnworth or whatever other place you've got planned for this week's New Line Development.

2. Replace your current 'signals' with actual signals

It's always signal failure. Not sure where you're buying these devices from, but have you checked that they are actually signals? First step: check signals are actually signals. Second step: ignore first step and buy new signals. From a signal selling company. Here's what one looks like:

3. Social Media is a two-way communication tool

Log in to twitter. Click the '@ Connect' button. You'll see a load of things that look like this:

@officialtfgm I've been at Market Street for 20 minutes, where are the Rochdale trams?!
@officialtfgm You're as useful as a Paul Scholes' tackle.
@officialtfgm If you were a telecoms company you'd be NTL.

This is people tweeting things at you. Underneath is a link that says 'reply'. If you click this button you'll be able to communicate with people who have asked you a question, or made a comment in your general direction. You need to acknowledge people as social media is a two-way communication tool. If you don't have the skills or resources to do this then don't use it at all.

If you want an example of how bad you are at this, the Los Angeles company with the Twitter username @metrolink have actually started answering complaints and apologising on your behalf:

I'm happy to provide a day's social media training at a bargain price of £800 a day and will come by car so we can start on time.

Also, you've pissed off Krypton Factor host Gordon Burns.

4. "Do you know how Geoff got suspended?" "Yeah, he went through a red at Langworthy." "Fucking hell."

For the love of all that is holy, train your staff to not discuss work issues whilst on duty, in work clothes and on a tram. This isn't an occasional thing. At least once a week I stand next to three or four staff openly discussing their managers and what's going on at work. Earlier this week two members of staff were loudly discussing different deaths on the line over the years, including the pensioner that had unfortunately been killed earlier that day.

Get them to spend some time at organisations like McDonalds and Starbucks where the personality is mentally beaten out of employees until they become a human script.

5. 'My Get Me There'

Liam Gallagher. Manchester United fans who use the word 'champ20ns'. Wallowing in nostalgia. People already have enough things to take the piss out of Mancunians for without calling our version of the Oyster Card the My Get Me There. Pick any random name (Flamingo, Blumpkin, Papaya, Epididymis, Anthrax, Gooch, etc.) and go with that instead.

Then find the people who were paid to come up with this and shake them by the hand to congratulate them on the size of their balls for charging for this service.

6. Consider relating the numbers displayed on the electronic board to what's actually happening.

A radical one this.

For example: if a Bury tram is arriving at a station in 6 minutes, put up the word 'Bury' with '6 minutes' next to it on to the board.

I'm all for the current laissez-faire, free-form approach of throwing up random numbers on the board but I thought a new system of corresponding the live timetable with what's actually going on in real life might prove popular.

7. Don't cover main events.

This sounds daft, but bear with me. When there's a big concert at the Etihad, or a sporting event such as the Ashes as we saw this week, why not just shut down? Just take the trams offline. Think about it. No additional trams required, no delays, no additional staff, no replacement bus services, no expensive removal of derailed trams, no crisis management. Perfect.

All you then need to do is work out your savings, send everyone going to these events a tenner and we can all just get taxis. Win-win.

8. Stop using random distribution to send out your trams.

During my long waits at various platforms all over your network I like to imagine the system you use to send out trams in a particular order. I'm come to the conclusion that you have a machine like the one they use on the National Lottery, but with tram lines instead of numbers on the balls.

Every 10 minutes or so an old bloke called Bob at head office stirs from his slumber, kicks the machine and a ball pops out that says 'Eccles'. Bob sends a carrier pigeon off to Piccadilly and 30 minutes later an Eccles tram splutters in to life. Followed by another Eccles tram. Then an Eccles tram.


You could retrain Bob to do it.

Anyway, I look forward to getting no response to this.

Kind regards.