The Worldwide Weblog of Donald Pincher

by Joshua Gaskell

Tag: TfL

Thursday, 30th April 2015

An email from TfL about Brixton tube station: ‘The station now has improved ticket machines, offering guidance in 17 languages’.

At last!

Monday, 9th March 2015

Just over a week ago, London Transport* put out a press release announcing that from next month its bike hire scheme will be rebranded, from Barclays Cycle Hire to Santander Cycles. As when Santander took over the already-demutualised Abbey National, this is not a qualitative change, the decision to make the public good subservient to profit having already been made. (In this case the profit motive will switch from being that of Barclays – one of the ‘Big Four’ high-street banks – to that of Santander – which wants to boost its profile in order to take customers away from the Big Four.)

The press release states that ‘The new £43.75m deal is the largest public-sector sponsorship in the world’ – a dubious distinction – but doesn’t say how much of that money will be wasted on ‘the new red-and-white livery’.

One organisation not mentioned in the press release at all is the one that actually operates the scheme: Serco. (Its contract to continue doing so runs until 31st July 2017.) Despite the fact that the scheme is essentially a public transport system run by an arm of local government, neither sponsorship by, nor outsourcing to a private company is felt to be enough on its own. Not one or the other – both.

This is a parody of a ‘new deal’, and the right-thinking response to it is the same as that given by Iain Sinclair to the original scheme, way back in 2011:

It was a nice conceit. I would be paying, by direct debit, for the privilege of trundling around […] as a mobile sandwich-board for a group of investment bankers.


* This is wilful parachronism: ‘Transport for London is the present successor to the mantle and has persuaded most Londoners [my emphasis] to call it TfL rather than London Transport’ (Brewer’s Dictionary of London Phrase and Fable).

Tuesday, 6th January 2015

Oyster, n.

Pronunciation: /ˈɔɪstə/
Etymology: < classical Latin ostrea

1. A costly way to eat.
2. A costly way to travel.

Saturday, 27th December 2014

‘The brevity of the phrase [“mind the gap”] is said to derive from the limitations of solid-state digital recording technology when it was first introduced in the late 1960s’ (Brewer’s Dictionary of London Phrase and Fable). Perhaps now that such limitations no longer exist, TfL could rewrite the message in their customary announcementese: ‘This is a customer service safety update: please be careful of the aperture between the threshold of the straight-carriaged train and the curving edge of the platform. Thank you for travelling with London Underground. Have a nice day.’ etc., etc.

Friday, 28th November 2014

If I never hear one again, I won’t miss the announcements on the tube that say, ‘Customer service update: there is a good service on all London Underground lines.’ For a start, they invent a real problem by seeking to remedy one that doesn’t exist: if there are no closures or delays then no announcement is necessary – an update in this sense must contain ‘New information received or supplied’ (OED) – unless of course contentless good-news “updates” have been normalised, meaning that people start to worry if they haven’t heard one.

I’ve said before that customer is not the best word to describe a person on a train. By the same token, customer service is the ‘assistance and advice provided by a company’ (COD); and as company-like as these vacuous boasts may be, London Underground remains a wholly-owned subsidiary of Transport for London, itself an arm of local government. Local government does not (or ought not) issue customer service updates.

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