Thursday, September 01, 2005

At last the ETA service

I'm rather amazed. One of my long standing gripes about being a hapless commuter on the London Underground is the lack of information about train services. Delays, yes, they always announce with some pleasure that there are delays, but try finding out details of the trains that are actually running so you can plan your journey and you will sink into a morass of despair.

Well that's beginning to change at last. Quite by chance I was browsing round the TFL web site when Lo! I found a page called ETA and it lets you select a station and it tells you the next three trains due to arrive. In real time. Precisely what I have been hoping to see. Or it would be if the Piccadilly was included, which it is not (probably because its communication systems are essentially nineteenth century in design). In fact, only five lines are covered but they say they hope to add some more over the next few months.

The other problem is that some of the detail is missing. For example, all services running out of Baker Street are merely described as "Met". Well given the complexity of services on that line - Fast Watfords, and semi-fast Uxbridges and the like - this is a bit like British Airways announcing that its next departure from Heathrow will be "An aircraft going to an airport somewhere". But let us not carp and gripe (I'll save that for later). At least LU are moving in the right direction.

One final thing bothers me. Their website says they will not make any more lines available until the systems are safe and secure. Uh, this is just an information display system, guys. If the existing system is safe and secure then adding further bits to it should make no difference. And safe??? Are international hackers going to nobble the display and hold LU to ransom? Am I in some sort of peril if I use this service? Might I be enviegled (You have to wait for the right moment to use this word, you know) into boarding a fake train that is cunningly announced to run just at the time I am accessing the ETA page? Probably not.

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