I freely admit that my opinion of National Express East Anglia's management is a pretty low one, although they do seem determined to reinforce that at every opportunity. And so, the fact that they were holding a 'Meet the Managers' event at Stowmarket this morning seemed too good to miss.
My suspicion that it wasn't going to be a blazing success was highlighted as I walked through the station past the booking office - which was closed, in mid-rush hour. From a personal perspective, having to collect my ticket from the machine, that meant queuing behind people relatively unused to using it, delaying me in my quest to reach the London-bound platform. However, I was early, so no crisis.
I raised the matter with the lady on the platform with a badge saying that she was Head of Customer Services and her response was that there is another machine on the other platform. Accurate in its simplicity, but no comment on why the ticket office was closed at a mainline station on a weekday in the rush hour. "Oh no, it's your fault.", seemed to be her attitude.
Alright, what about your poor punctuality and performance record on the mainline service? "It's getting better by the week.". So, no apology for your appalling performance so far. "We would do much better if there was investment in the track." Hang on, when you signed the franchise agreement, wasn't that a given? "If the track was better, we could run services like Virgin." What, Pendolinos? Are you serious, on a relatively backwater part of the rail network?
Increasingly frustrated, I turned to the Service Improvement Plan. Don't you think that it's dishonest to claim credit for improvements that will only come into effect after you lose the franchise. "No." After all, you've lost the franchise for being so thoroughly useless.
In summary, my exchange exemplifies every reason why National Express East Anglia deserve all the opprobrium they get. They don't seem to understand that, regardless of whether or not their performance is improving, it is doing so from an almost subterranean base, is still at levels far below its competitors, and is delivered almost grudgingly, despite the fact that their staff are at least trying.
Naturally, I will be looking at ways of addressing my frustrations...