I ARRIVED at New Street on a London Midland service from Northampton – and was immediately struck by the pre-recorded announcement stating that passengers needing assistance would find lifts available at the A end of every platform.
Well, on platform 3A, where my train arrived, there were no longer lifts available.
So I checked on the latest situation with one of Network Rail’s staff at the ‘B’ end of platform 3 – where there are now escalators and lifts up to the new dispersal bridge.
He assured me that all lifts at the ‘A’-end platforms were still in use, to enable passengers to move between platforms via the subway.
I said I thought this was wrong – but he instructed me not to argue with him but to use one of the new escalators.
So much for customer friendliness!
As for more confusion, my Internet link to National Rail Enquiries told me my next train, to York, would depart from platform 10A – but the New Street information screens showed the train would actually depart from platform 8A.
To reach platform 8A from the new dispersal bridge I had to use either the escalators or the lift to platform 8B. But both the escalators – up and down– were out of order and under repair.
The lift was working – but most passengers were looking for an alternative pedestrian route.
This meant them having to exit the ticket barrier above the ‘B’ end of all the New Street platforms and then go into the new public thoroughfare, which replicates the old concourse entrance. Then they had to pass back through another ticket barrier to gain access to the stairs to the ‘A’ end of platforms.
When I got down on platform 8A I found a much more helpful member of Network Rail’s staff (he told me he was a volunteer) who confirmed that all the lifts at the ‘A’ ends of platforms – except 11 to 12 – were now closed down. So, I then telephoned London Midland (0121 634 2040) to ask why the pre-recorded announcements in their trains were still advising passengers, on arrival at Birmingham New Street, that lifts were available at the ‘A’ end of all platforms – when they should be saying that lifts and escalators were now available at the ‘B’ end of all platforms.
When the London Midland number was finally answered, I endured what we all must encounter so often – no human being answering, but a series of instructions being made to press one number for this, another for that – but never a number to enable a conversation with a human being.
So, after much experience of such situations, I pressed nothing, ignored everything and waited – and, hey presto, I was eventually connected to a real living person.
But all she could tell me was that London Midland was aware that its on-train announcements were still advising that lifts were available (when they weren’t) at the ‘A’ ends of New Street platforms.
She said that London Midland hoped to have corrected the on-train announcements by the following week.
But she could not explain why the automated pre-recorded announcements could not have been brought up to date a week earlier when the big changeover at Birmingham New Street occurred . . . after months of planning, and pre-publicity.
By the way, according to the latest figures from the ORR, London Midland has the poorest punctuality of any train operator . . . including, it seems, keeping its on-train announcements up to date.
(Note: The first part of the ‘new’ New Street opened to passengers on 28 April.)