Pet hates no. 2: “There is good service on the Northern Line”

Last night, after 7pm, I was travelling home from Embankment on the West End branch of the Northern Line.  As I boarded I heard a routine announcement that “there is a good service on the Northern Line”.  I thought no more about it: the wait for the train had not been too long, and there was space on the train when it arrived, though not spare seats.  The problem arose once the train reached Kennington, where it terminates, and I changed onto the City branch for the rest of the journey.

There was quite a crowd already on the platform for the City branch.  The wait for the next train took a good three minutes (though I did not check the indicated), so the overall gap with the train before must have been about 5 minutes.  Unsurprisingly, for that time of night, the train was very crowded when it arrived.  I stood no chance of boarding it.  As it left, I looked at the train indicator, and it said that the next train was 5 minutes.  Oh dear; it was going to be very crowded too, and there might well not be enough room on that!  The came an announcement: “This is the Kennington control Room.  There is a good service on the Northern Line.”  The passengers took this surprisingly stoically; if there had been a riot going, I would have joined it.  When the train came, I did manage to board, just, and was jammed against the doors.  When the train reached Stockwell there was another massive crowd on the platform, which the train could not clear.  And it took quite a while for passenger wanting to leave to get off, the train was so packed.

I utterly fail to see how this service can be described as “good”, and how the Kennington announcement was anything other than a calculated insult to the travelling public that London Underground’s management so clearly despise.  The trains were not frequent enough to clear the platforms, and the overcrowding was both uncomfortable for passengers and causing further delays to boarding and getting off.  In fact they use the term “good” to refer to the best of three status levels: the others being “minor delays” and “major delays”.  And this seems to depend on departures from the timetable across the whole line.  I can happily accept that the delays last night (the service normally has something like a 3 minute interval at that time of day) did not reach the point of qualifying for as “minor delays”, a category, incidentally, that is almost totally useless to the travelling public (What are you to do with it?  It’s not sufficient to take alternative routes; it’s often cleared by the time you reach the platform with trains bunched up to provide rather a good service).  But this does not make it “good”.  To call it such is a misuse of the English language and an insult.  They need a more neutral word, such as “normal”.

Why aren’t people more angry about such abuses?  I can see this sort of thing spreading to hospitals and other public services, as the petty officials that run them try to fool themselves that what they are doing is enough to make their users happy.  It should be stopped.


5 thoughts on “Pet hates no. 2: “There is good service on the Northern Line””

  1. Gaps of up to five minutes (and that meaning just two minutes late) during the rush hour?

    Anywhere in the UK outside greater London that would be referred to not as ‘good’ but as ‘miraculous’.

  2. I know Jen! The main point is less the lost time (though we Londoners are notoriously impatient) than the fact it wasn’t coping with demand and causing nasty overcrowding. I would settle for “normal”, but it does not feel good at all!

  3. Jen makes a fair point, however the original point stands.

    What they mean is that there is a ‘normal service’ and that is what they should say.

    I always get very annoyed when they describe it as a ‘good service’.

  4. When they started writing line statuses on boards at stations they did used to have a “normal” status and a “good” status but “normal” soon disappeared as I imagine they thought suggesting that their normal service wasn’t good was a PR misstep!

  5. And there we have it! A real issue turned into a PR issue. I think that’s what making us (me, Matthew, Liberal Neil etc) so angry.

    I have a related problem. Just had an gallery opening, and everybody is telling me it’s great. But I think at least half of them are saying that to me to make me feel good – with the result that I get paranoid and depressed. To know what they really think, however bad, must surely be better than this! Why do I think they are lying? Because they give no details, just bland generalities, rather like ‘Good service on the northern line’.

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