Irish rail have launched a competition which allows travellers to vote for their station by text message for 20 cent. Their question is ‘do you love your station?’. While I like living close to my train station in the Kildare town of Sallins, my honest answer is no I don’t love my station. There are lots of reasons why I feel this way:
1. There are no shelters for protecting people from the elements when waiting for trains. Which brings me onto waiting for late trains.
2. Trains are usually late. Anyone that uses Irish rail frequently knows that trains rarely arrive on time, in fact Irish rail only consider a train to be late if it arrives more than 10 minutes late, see photograph below. When I recently mentioned to an Irish rail employee that the late train meant I would be late for an appointment, his answer was that I should get an earlier train to allow for any delays, even though the earlier train left an hour earlier! Compare this attitude to Melbourne, Australia where the train operator will give you a refund and a short note explaining to a third party that it was their fault you are late for work, or a meeting, or an appointment etc. Also a late train in Melbourne is one that is three minutes late not ten minutes.
3. There are no clocks and no toilet facilities in the train station.
4. The ticket machine. The ticket desk is only staffed for half the day, until lunchtime I think. When it is closed people have to buy a ticket at the one and only ticket machine, and as it is really slow, big queues of people can develop. Which means you have to allow lots of time in case there is a queue. Even worse it is frequently broken so you cant buy a ticket. Yesterday, the ticket machine was ‘sort of’ working, it wouldn’t except credit cards, or debit cards. Also it would only except the exact change for the ticket. To get around this I tried to purchase a €9.80 ticket by putting in €10, but it rejected my money as it wouldn’t even let me overpay!
Returning to the competition that Irish Rail have started. Surely it would be better for people to nominate their favourite station instead of asking people to vote for their own one. The result of the competition would then actually mean something, the way it is structured at present means that the station with the most users will probably get the most votes rather then the best station. However it is worth considering that the bigger train stations are usually better as they have more facilities.
To finish, my own opinion is that along with improving their station facilities Irish Rail should concentrate on getting their trains to run on time.