South West Trains Hardcover – 3 Mar 2011
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is based around three interviews with senior executives of Stagecoach and South West Trains, press releases and a few visits to the company's facilities (three train depots and a training centre). The result could be mistaken for being an official company history. The interviews appear not to have been particularly challenging. For example an interview described - in both chapters 3 and 10 - as "an in-depth in Brian Souter gave refreshingly honest answers to questions." but produces results such as "Souter revealed that Stagecoach had a good technical knowledge of the bus industry and a lot of business acumen." As an observation on a commercially successful bus company, that is not much of a revelation. Difficulties that the company experienced are given a positive gloss. For example, although the shortage of drivers in early years of the franchise is described, the criticism is downplayed, with no mention of the significant attention these problems received in parliament.Although described by the publishers as "a comprehensive history of the TOC" the book concentrates on each franchise bid and skips over much of what happened in between. And with numerous photographs, little space is left to provide any detail. As noted by a previous reviewer, the book provides a basic overview of the company.Read more ›
On a more positive note, the book provides a basic overview of SWT since it started and there are a large number of pictures in the book, however to some extent more infomration can be found from Wikipedia than this book.
Certainly its a useful, if brief, reference guide to South West Trains (SWT) and stagecoach's rail business. The interviews with Brian Souter and several other stagecoach managers is in many ways enlightening. They do admit to mistakes early on, such as letting too many drivers go. It also talks through the various "lives" of the franchise, the re-tenders and Stagecoach's efforts to retain the franchise. You will learn things about SWT and its routes that you probably didn't know already.
However, the book does brush over some of the major problems / issues that SWT had over the years. For example, the Class 458s were nothing short of a disaster and its blatant that SWT ran out of patience with Alstom, hence why they selected Siemens to build their new fleet. However the book merely says "a decision was taken to standardise on Siemens Desiro units". It doesn't do a very good job of explaining why they ridded themselves of the class 442s. There are many other things such as overcrowding, fare rises that aren't really mentioned.
The above reasons are why I (and it seems others) feel that this sheds an extremely positive light on SWT. Now I am not saying SWT are a bad Train Operator (in fact they're probably one of the best) but like everybody else they have had problems which are simply written out of this book.
So overall: the book is useful and informative. However you get the impression that this was more written by Stagecoach / Brian Souter than John Balmforth. Having said that though, the book on GNER was published after GNER had disappeared into the history books. Therefore Chris Garnett (CEO of GNER) and John Balmforth could be more open and critical of the DFT, media etc than Stagecoach as an incumbent operator can.
I have 30% Vision, so it's not a joke, I am genuinely disgusted
The woman then is Unable to transfer calls to customer services and instead you have to dial another high rate number, which is the first company on the planet that has a 'we don't transfer to customer services' rule.
Feeling I had lost all faith in the company I was given a copy of this book from a friend that is apparently a failed comedian, and then a couple of months after my complaint I got a reply from SouthWest Trains asking to meet up in person, I wasn't looking for a relationship and they are slippery as a KY Jelly Eel I decided not to meet in person, instead they have gone silent again.
The book however is great and highlights a better time when the customer was remotely important.
Was expecting it to be a series with collectable tokens that could be exchanged for a nice Anorak though