Friday, February 13, 2009

Stirring it up

I never know who, if anyone, reads my occasional outpourings. I had always vaguely thought that historians from the twenty-seventh century, picking through the remnants of our civilisation, might unearth a dusty disk from the ruins of the Google building and would hear my scribbles brought to life by their robot translators. So imagine my surprise to receive comments on my post of yesterday (on the subject of a new internet domain) from the man whose words, quoted in yesterday's Guardian, sparked off my interest. If only I could get a similar response from the powers-that-be in London Underground...


  1. It's good to mix things up every once in a while :)

    I saw a fascinating documentary film recently that I think you and other readers of this blog might also enjoy, called "Taken For a Ride". It charts the efforts of General Motors to destroy mass transit systems in American cities. If you've got an hour to kill this weekend then it's definitely a worthwhile watch:

    If you could impose 5 (relatively inexpensive) changes on London Transport, what would they be?

  2. 5 (inexpensive) changes...hmmm..
    1 - staff retrained to use the term Passenger rather than customers. Customers include people who rent kiosks and advertising space. People who travel are passengers.
    2 - staff retrained to explain, when there are delays, when the next trains are due to arrive.
    3 - staff who announce about delays without following rule 2, or explaining that anyone delayed has the right to a refund, or giving some idea how long the problem is likely to continue, to be dismissed with contumely
    4 - tube drivers to be allowed to pass signals at danger when they can clearly see that it safe to do so. This would end the foolish practice of trains stopping just before a platform because of a red, when the next section beyond the platform is clear.
    5 - senior management of LU required to use the tube to come to work and fined each time they are late regardless of the reasons. That might bring home to them the day to day problems of those dependant on the tube.

    There - almost no cost at all and a fundamental change in the attitude which may bring out a better travelling experience. And if there is money to be spent, widen the stairs from the Met to the Bakerloo on platform 3 at Baker Street - I seriously regard these as a disaster in waiting. One day someone at the top, pushing to get through the crowds, will trip and cause a pileup at the foot of the steps with fatal consequences.

  3. Sounds like some good suggestions. I don't live in London so my experience with the transport network is on a very occassional basis.

    1. But wouldn't you prefer to be called a, "client in transit", or "soujourning bench walmer"? ;-)

    2. Don't the scrolling information tickers inform you of delays? Or is the problem that they lack enough information? I take it your suggestion is to have a human being announce delays on the platform, and to offer refunds and guidance for alternative travel arrangements.. I think I'd prefer that too. Would also make travelling far less stressful for tourists.

    3. Harsh! But I can appreciate your frustration.

    4. Sounds very reasonable - surprised drivers don't already have this discretion.

    5. Great idea. Conceptually similar to the recent Panasonic dictate to its management level staff that they each must spend £1,000 on Panasonic goods (£1,500 for upper management). I especially like the idea of docking their wages for being late!

    I think I also remember the problem with those stairs at Bakerloo.

    Are you a member of a passenger's pressure group?

  4. re point 2 - no they do not, not at many stations. At my home station we have nice new electronic signs, put up when it was rebuilt a couple of years ago, and they display nothing at all other than the words "Northbound (or southbound) Picadilly and Metropolitan trains", wrong anway since the line runs east-west between Harrow and Uxbridge. The info about the next three arrivals at each platform is on the LU website by the way (in fact stations on the Met north of Wembley Park were only added to the website in the past month) but not on the signs on the platforms. Nor indeed at the entrances to stations where it would help passengers to know if they should hurry up or not. It is a source of huge frustration.

    re point 4: SPAD (signal passed at danger) is a huge disciplinary black mark for a driver and, remembering the Paddington rail crash caused precisely by a driver who couldn't see the signal, one can understand why. But the tube, with huge sections of non-intersecting tracks, does not carry quite the same dangers as the main line. Sometimes trains stop at the very edge of my home station, and you can see where the next train is, also halted, a few hundred yards further along.

    I am not a member of any pressure group. Perhaps I should be, but in the meantime my blog is an outlet.