Monday, March 20, 2006

Signs of the times

I’m all of a tremble. One of the recurrent themes of this blog is the shameful lack of information provided to passengers at my home station, Ruislip Manor. Even the bus stops at many points in London have electronic display signs to show the next arrivals. At my station - zilch. But all that may be about to change.
They’ve been rebuilding Ruislip Manor since January 2005. The place is festooned with cameras, speakers and electronic bits and pieces. We’ve even got a couple of those useless “information point” stands; where you press a button in order to hear a phone ringing. And today I saw what surely must be an display sign, a long narrow tube with as-yet blank face, positioned strategically as you come up the steps to the London-bound platform. Can it mean that we are about to get the same sort of information that many stations have enjoyed since the 1930s?

There is also some sort of sign over the station entrance. Now if this were also to be a live display of train movements it would mark a major departure. London Underground tells the would-be passenger almost nothing until they are passed through the barriers. (They have begun putting some train info on the Internet but naturally not for the Piccadilly line). In nearly all cases you must be on the station platform before you discover when your train is likely to arrive.  In the deep stations it may take several minutes walking down escalators, steps and dingy corridors only to find that you could have stayed up top and had a coffee because your train is not due for fifteen minutes.  I have argued for years that there should be information displays outside the stations as well as inside, and then people arriving could make intelligent decisions if they faced delays.

Intelligence is not a word normally associated with the operations of London Underground (where a 20 minute wait for a grossly over-crowded train is described routinely as “minor delays”) and perhaps the sign outside Ruislip Manor is merely going to be for advertising – (you have to imagine a standard Pearl & Dean cinema advert voice at this point)  “Why not enjoy a tasty pizza at Pedro’s? Only one minute from this station” *.

We shall see. Further bulletins will be posted as soon as there is something to report.

*One of my favourite lines from the ads for hot dogs in the cinema was the tag “An hour from now you’ll be glad you had one”. In the case of Pedro (who plies his dubious trade just opposite the station) one feels that “An hour from now make sure you are close to an A & E department” might be more appropriate.

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