Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Of Signs and Stress

I bang on about indicator boards and the like but that is because it's important. Few things are more stressful on the Underground than waiting for trains when you don't know how long you have to wait. The modern indicators that display the next three or four arrivals set the standard for how information should be provided. So it is sad when they put up new boards that do nothing but state the bleedin' obvious. Consider the Bakerloo platforms at Waterloo. There are old style boards, rather hard to see at a distance, but they do at least show the next three trains. New boards are going up. They are bright and clear but display nothing except the time and stuff like "Northbound trains". What is the point? One assumes that they will actually be used to show train arrivals (given that the same data is already on the TFL website) so why do they not do so now?

And whilst on this subject what about my home station at Ruislip Manor? It was equipped with new boards a couple of years ago that are as useful to passengers as the non-working "emergency" help points. What a waste of our money.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Niggles - continued

You may have read yesterday's piece about the defective indicator board at Harrow on the Hill and perhaps thought "That's jolly interesting, I shall inspect the said item for myself on my very next visit". Well, you can't because the board is no more. Where it was is just a gap in the platform roof. So it is just as well that Ramblings took a quick photo and, with apologies for the inadequacies of my camera phone and having to take it at night, here is the shocking proof.

It was funny when I took it because at once there came an announcement saying "Will the person doing the flash photography stop, this is prohibited". I felt guilty until realising that as my phone does not have flash, the culprit was not me. Then coming down the platform I saw several bright flashes - this was the front lamp on a bike being wheeled along. It's these little incidents that are the very stuff of urban life, you know.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Morning trains on the Met were late yesterday because of "blocking back" at Wembley Park (no real reason given, presumably the usual overrunning of engineering works). Last night at Baker Street the platform indicator boards were not working; the staff made the odd announcement but if you missed it you had to play pot luck with the north-bound trains. And this morning we had a defective train at Baker Street that made us rather slow on the final tunnel section into that station.

Nothing special about any one of these incidents. A little worrying about the way they cluster. The Met is really showing its age. For example, there is an indicator board at Harrow on the Hill that has been broken for months. A pathetic sign has been stuck on it telling people to read the destinations shown on the front of the incoming trains instead. They have modern LCD displays at the stations further south but at Harrow, one of the major nodes on the network, the boards go back at least 40 years (I guess) and when they fail they stay failed.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Departure Board bliss

I've moaned about it before so nice to be appreciative of London Underground for a change - all tube lines are now represented on the Departure Board page on the TFL website . You can see the arrivals in real time for any train on the system. For the last few years it was restricted to half the lines.

Of course you need an internet enabled device to read this info, so you can't see it when you are actually using the tube or at a station (unless you have a suitable handheld device). But we can perhaps dream of the day when this will be reality, and we won't need announcers to tell us about delays, we will be able to see what is actually running for ourselves and plan our journeys accordingly.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The vapidity of announcements

Late running on engineering works at Neasden brought both the Metropolitan and Jubilee lines to their knees this morning. With no trains southbound from Harrow, I resorted to my fall-back of the Piccadilly and got in 20 minutes late. So far, so routine but it struck me, as I heard one interminable announcement after another telling us that there was no service, that the real piece of information we would like to know was how long until normal service resumed.

I don't think this is an unreasonable request. Engineering takes place overnight. By the time I start my journey - 8:30 am - any delays will have been known about for at least three hours (in fact the first Metropolitan trains start around 5:00 am). So someone somewhere must have said to the line controllers "er sorry about the ballsup but my lads will have it all cleared up by...". Now if they tell me that it will all be sorted in about 15 minutes I will wait, rather than cram into a train that hundreds of other frustrated passengers will be similarly filling. And if the delay is going to be more than hour, then I cram in with the best of them. I'd just like to know that my cram was worth while.