The Anonymous Widower

A Great British Compromise

This is the title of an article in Modern Railways which discusses how you measure how late trains are.

The trouble is that what is late to passengers is very different to what is late for the train companies.

Take these scenarios.

1. You are wanting to catch a particular train at 10:00 and you get there at that time, just as the train is moving off. You’ll be annoyed and ask why couldn’t the train wait. But then to the train company, every time they’re late away means they’ll have to catch up somewhere to avoid their punctuality figures being ruined.

2. If train timetables had contingencies, they’d all wait regularly, so they left and arrived on time. Do we want more time to sit and twiddle our thumbs?

3. What passengers like too, is being early and how many times, have you waited outside a terminal station for a platform, before arriving dead-on the correct time?

4. You’re catching a connection at somewhere like Ipswich and you have two minutes to get the other train.  But you’ve got a heavy case and you’ve got to get across the overbridge, which has got lifts.  The lifts however are busy with someone in a wheelchair and you miss the train you need to catch. Who’s fault is that?

You can probably think of many other scenarios.

You get annoyed because of the lost time, but rail companies get their statistics mucked up. You might not travel that way again and the train company is out of pocket.

So we have two possible solutions.

1, We either build enough slack into the timetables, as they do in some other countries, so that the trains always arrive and leave as the timetable says.  But this means a lot more thumb-twiddling.

2.  We adopt a good British compromise, with give and take on both sides.

If we go for the second option, passengers must accept that occasionally they will be late, but sometimes they will be early. So you win some and lose some.

There are also a few responsibilities, that the second option places on both parties.

1.  The first is a variation of the mirror-in-the-lift solution.  I can’t find a full reference, but there is this post on Yahoo Answers. Basically giving people something to do, makes the waiting shorter.  So perhaps a cafe and a toilet would help pass the time. Even good informational posters will help!

2.  Train companies must also provide information in a timely manner. I was on a train recently and as it approached a stop, an announcement told passengers wanting the train to Somewhere, that it was on Platform 3 over the bridge or whatever.

3. Some station signage is also pretty poor.  If you get the Overground from Stratford, you walk up the  stairs and there are often two trains at the top.  So do you go left or right? A simple next train out sign, like several Underground stations have, would solve the problem.

4. Passengers should be prepared and if they don’t know what to do, then they should leave themselves more time.

So it’s all give and take and if we get it right everybody wins.

February 24, 2013 - Posted by | Transport | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I sat on NAG [Network Access Group] when Commissioning the Cairns Diesel Tilt Train at the Suburban Rail Maintenance Yards. Whenever I needed to use an Urban Line or Cairns Lines [for cleaning or traveling to Roma Street Station for Public Display or Testing on Cairns Route, I had several rules NAG Requests . . . planned two weeks in advance. The comment at NAG was a tonne of Coal Never Complains.

    Late Passenger Trains now attract a $Dollar Fine, when Urban Trains are Privatised.
    Two Minutes is not enough time for Train Connections {5 minutes more like the average time} . . . The Project Planning of Running a NAG Program, is Amazing in How Much Detail, and How Accurate it is for 95_% plus of all trips [including waiting in sidings].

    Comment by Steam Lover | February 24, 2013 | Reply


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