Important historical background
10 years ago my home station, Ruislip Manor, had a refurbishment. On other stations electronic display boards show passengers the expected
times of arrival of trains. In the days before smartphone apps put this
sort of information at our fingertips, they were a blessing. I hoped that one of the improvements of the rebuild would be the installation of such boards and said so in this very column.
It took them three months after the rebuild but in a piece at the end of March 2006 I celebrated the appearance of the self-same signs. Three weeks later they switched them on and, as I noted at the time, they showed nothing more than the direction in which trains ran, and they couldn't even get that right. But I thought it would be all sorted out pretty soon. By May I was becoming more cynical. In February 2007 the utter uselessness of the boards, which continued to display only the wrong direction of travel (and the time, to be fair) was taken for granted.
All the information about train movements, including on the Metropolitan, was made publicly available in March 2009 and I celebrated this development by crediting London Underground. Of course the information was not displayed on the platforms at Ruislip Manor - the electronic signs continued to show nothing of any value. Why did they not hook them up the same data that was made available to any smartphone app developer? I have no idea. I returned to this theme a couple of weeks later.
Being able to use one's phone to check on train arrivals was, and remains, a pure joy for the experienced commuter. But it always irritated that LU refused to use the expensive equipment that should have been the primary source of such information. I had another go at them late in 2010. After that, as I began to commute less, it didn't seem to grate so much. And I suppose I had begun to assume that nothing would ever change again.
And now today's momentous news
This picture tells the story. Apologies for the usual blurring caused by a combination of my cheap phone's camera and the gathering gloom of a late winter afternoon. But what does that matter? For the information boards are finally doing what they should have been doing 9 long years ago - giving us information!
It does say "Service under test" and I noted that there were no signs working at other stations on the section up to Harrow (south of which they have been merrily doing their job for many years), so too soon to crack open the Bollinger but maybe a glass of weak lemonade would be fitting.
And not only that - for at the entrance to the station they have activated another long dormant display - this one showing the arrivals at both platforms. Another huge positive, though Waterloo tube station had one installed - and working - in April 2009, as I noted at the time, and of course most other stations have also had them for ages.
So, assuming that it all works once the testing is complete (and I have no reason to think otherwise), this brings a very long and frustrating period to a happy conclusion. How about that?