First of all I'd like to apologise on behalf of Save East Coast Rewards to those organising the first HackTrain event in March. March was the first month of operation of Virgin Trains East Coast and there was a lot of anger that they scrapped an excellent rewards scheme and replaced it with one of the worst in the UK. At the time it felt like VTEC were ignoring us and our Twitter followers who are regular travellers on the East Coast route, we genuinely thought that scrapping the rewards scheme was going to be the first of many cutbacks. In the hope that senior people within Virgin Trains East Coast would see our discontent with their changes we were using the #HackTheRails hashtag to draw awareness to our feelings.
In the aftermath we felt it was a mistake and that we should be supporting events like this. After all anything that improves technological innovation is a good thing and had GNER has such events when I was graduating (early 2000's) I'd probably be trying to get involved myself.
Since then Save East Coast Rewards has developed a better relationship with Virgin Trains East Coast. Although we're still not happy with their loyalty scheme offering we are now happy to support the things they do well. Events and supporting good causes are something that they have indeed done well.
Some off the top of my head:
- The HackTrain and HackTrain 2.0 as mentioned here!
- The RNIB 'Traincopter' to raise money for a good cause
- A large presence at the London and Newcastle Pride events
- Various members of the team participating in various events for charity.
- Holding pop-up shops in certain stations to help small businesses gain exposure.
- Plenty of support to promote Lincoln tourism.
- Airtime events to get to meet the team.
I've met quite a few of the Virgin management team since then as well as those in other behind the scenes roles such as social media and just like those who work on the trains they're all great people. Nectar was a mistake, but rather than being the first of many it turned out to be a rare mistake.
Good luck to #VTECHackTrain
So like with VTEC themselves let's set aside our differences and support those who are combining fun and innovation to try and come up with innovative solutions to improve the railway. From what I can see there's three teams, one using VTEC, the other GWR and the final one using South West Trains. You can support the VTEC team using #VTECHackTrain or the event in general using #HackTheRails for more information see hacktrain.com or @TheHackTrain on Twitter.