8 July 2012

The various and devious ways of railway managers

It is a rare and wondrous occasion when a suburban train arrives at the time stated in the timetable, and even more wondrous when it drops you at your destination when you expect it to.  I have abandoned my little timetable book at home; it seems a waste of time consulting it when the contents therein bear little connection to reality

I sense that administrators are becoming more duplicitous in how they present delays/cancellations to the travelling public.  For instance, if a train is cancelled the station announcer doesn't just come out and say "Sorry, people, the 13.00 is cancelled."  Instead he says "The 13.00 train will arrive 20 minutes late."  The thing is, however, that trains run every 20 minutes, so does that mean that at 13.20 two trains will arrive, the delayed 13.00 together with the punctual 13.20?  I think you know the answer to that question.

Another psychological trick is to unplug the departure board.  Here the great unknown is at play.  The only certain information you are given is which are the next two trains, and you know which one the first is because it's already standing right in front of you in the station.  Thanks a lot!  Will your desired train be arriving in the next twenty minutes?  Beats me!  Just stick around and wait a while.

Railway managers are skilled masters at redefining our concept of time.  The departure board boldly announces your train will arrive in one minute (an optimistic assumption, if ever I saw one).  That digit "1" stubbornly remains in place on the board for at least seven minutes - I know, I've timed it with my ordinary, quartz-operated wristwatch.  I am led to the conclusion that I must be stuck in a time warp in another dimension. 

Still, I wouldn't change places with London commuters at this particular point in time, what with the Olympics and all that.  I've read that Transport for London (what was wrong with the old name, London Transport?) is handing out pearls of wisdom for commuters stuck in a Tube station in the bowels of the city: if your train is late/delayed a good alternative is to walk.  Oh, how droll!  Let's all traipse home across the city to the counties.  I wonder how Boris will be getting around during the Games?

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Squeaky Door by Elizabeth Chairopoulou is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.