Last Tuesday was my busiest so far this year. Departing home by taxi just after 4am, I took the 5.27am train from Paddington to Taunton, arriving by 9am to set up for an opening keynote. After lunch, I was back at the station, heading back to London to lecture at the London Business School. I was due into Paddington at about 4pm.
The train was late into Taunton, due to a fault. We were assured it was fixed and sped off on the fast service, due to stop only in Reading. But an hour into the journey, the train came to a stop in the middle of nowhere. And there we sat. A long story short is that a freight train had broken down, blocking the tracks and reducing the national rail system to South West England to a parking lot. We sat and sat. Then moved a bit. Then sat some more.
Then, we made a stop at a tiny station, Bedwyn, I think it was. After half n hour, we were asked to disembark. Our train was pulled out of service and we were boarded onto the next train that came along a few minutes later. I can only guess they were trying to reduce the number of trains on the system.
But, now for the point of my story…
Sharing our train and equally distressed by the situation was the Chairman of the train company. He was brilliant. He kept us informed, apologised and later he literally opened the bar. He told us that he wanted the buffet car cleared out before we arrived in Paddington and that the cash register had been put away. He then personally walked up and down the train dispensing wine, chatting to passengers and creating great goodwill for First Great Western trains.
Good on him! A bad situation well handled.
The only question I have is whether we would have received the same treatment had the Chairman not been on board. Was he just following company policy? Was he MAKING policy? Or was he just doing something only he could do as Chairman?