Monday, 4 October 2010

The most expensive journey

When I run a program on my computer and the computer hangs I get a sign that the programme I have run is corrupt in some manner and can choose to not run it. I have proven the programme is unfit to be run. Why can’t life be like computers?
In September I was returning from Newcastle on a train when the conductor, who is no longer called a conductor but a fair checker, checked my ticket and found that I had inadvertently boarded the train without a ticket using my seat reservation (which is the same colour and shape and size as a standard ticket). Floundering in my pockets and bags failed to produce the required ticket stub but did produce a wealth of tickets but none for the actual journey.

So I showed the person my email confirmation of the ticket sale and even showed it online, as I was online on the train. I produced proof of who I was and as the conductor/fair checker agreed there was no doubt I had paid for my ticket. So he gave me another ticket for an unpaid fair, as I did not have the physical ticket. He told me not to worry as long as I showed the people in the unpaid fair ticket that I had paid I would not need to pay anything else.

I did as he instructed and received a penalty notice for the journey of £87.50 through my door last week. On the phone the care line for the East Coast train company told me that I had to pay and he could not guarantee that I would get my money back. Flummoxed, I contacted the ombudsman about this and was instructed to pay and there would be no guarantee of me getting my money back as the law states that I was travelling without a ticket and therefore should be fined.

So innocence does not matter anymore. We have a program of management that means that as long as you do certain things you must pay whether or whether not you are guilty. I admit guilt for not having my ticket on me at the time, as it possibly failed to drop from the machine I retrieved it at. But I am not guilty of fair dodging as I did pay my fair and to this day can prove I paid for my seat on the train that I was sitting in.

To me this management style and policies are akin to a virus on a computer. No matter what you do the blue screen of death makes your life a misery. You cannot win.

I feel sad for my children entering into a world we have created in which all values seem to be lost. A world in which the bleeding obvious is not accepted as Mr Jobsworth has to fill out the form or he will get in to trouble.

The funny thing about this is that on the Underground a similar thing happened to me and nothing transpired apart from a short frank discussion with a person at the gate, who possibly will not be there is Boris Johnson et al get their way, but I was allowed through without a fine for £30000.

So what can be learned from this, apart from always ensure you have the physical ticket before travelling on the East Coast rail lines, I can see many parallels to the stupid and over blown managerial systems that larger companies are deploying. I can also see a link between Microsoft and Apple and viruses. Clearly if a system fails it should be rewritten and the coding modified. Why cannot business learn from the computer industry?