Friday, June 18, 2010

A volcano eruption. Quell surprise!

An organisation's ability to provide a satisfactory service rather depends how well it does when things go wrong. When trains are all running on time and this leaves managers twiddling their thumbs, they have no reason to be satisfied. On time running is a standard benchmark. When things go wrong and how management and staff respond is what sorts a good service provider from a poor one.

One thing I do know about trains and trams, is that when something does go wrong, many many people are working behind the scenes to make things right again. 'Why don't they just....' can often be heard by the suffering public, but there are usually very good reasons why something can't be done. Often the complaint is 'Why don't they get buses?', in the case of a major delay. Generally transport operators do not have buses sitting around idle and nor do they have staff sitting around idle. A lot needs to happen to get a bus to the scene of a tram or train delay. Peak travel times I think is nearly impossible. You could well argue that idle buses and staff should sit around waiting for train or tram delays. Perhaps you would be right, but it will cost of course and these are private companies, operating to make a profit.

Recently a new and expensive hotel suffered a full power failure during a special event. How well was the power failure handled? While I don't know, it is a situation that should have been planned for and dealt with competently.

Which brings us to what we are now learning about the disastrous Icelandic volcano eruption that stopped planes from flying all over Europe and the UK. In fact screwed up world plane travel. How well did the authorities and companies handle the situation that inconvenienced perhaps millions of people? Middling, it would seem. Ryan Air at least has breached Euro regulations by not paying proper compensation.

But what we have really learnt is that it was totally un-necessary to shut down so much air space. The plans to deal with a volcanic eruption of that scale were woefully inadequate, leaving no option but to shut the European air space down.

So right at the very top of the pile, you have an/some organisations that failed dismally, cost people, airline and other businesses large amounts of money, spoilt travel plans and inconvenienced so many people.

Later addition: Just to round this post off, I came across this audio file which is radio traffic about a recent tram incident. It is slightly more interesting than watching paint dry and gives you an idea of what happens behind the scenes.


  1. I did wonder at the time, when they shut down such a huge amount of airspace. We have had airspace disruptions here a few times in recent volcanic eruption memory, but the only airspace closures were in the direction the wind was blowing. (Maybe we are lucky we tend to get plenty of wind to blow such things as ash away!)

  2. Just got back from a day trip to Stockholm and had a taste of their metro system. Ticketing is a bit messy but boy did I envy the frequency of their trains (every 5 minutes). It's a similar situation in Helsinki. No need for timetables at that frequency. Is it because both cities have a much smaller network to deal with that Melbourne?

    Btw...over the last couple of days, my version of safari keeps crashing every time I try to get onto your blog ;-(

  3. Didn't even think of NZ KN. So we have precedents too.

    Yeah AR, I read about you being in Stockers. Scandinavia really does many things really well, but would we Aussies want to live there? Look forward to a sum up of your trip once you are home and in a reflective mood.

  4. some Melb trams are 12-minutes during weekdays. That's not a hard wait.

    The BP oil spill is something that could happen to all the other offshore drills and those companies should be watching, learning and maybe helping BP, ready for the day it could happen to them.