Directionless travel

Baroness Deech

Have you noticed that there aren’t any large comprehensive printed timetables on display boards at your station any longer? I am a regular commuter through Reading station, where redevelopment has been going on for years now. Millions have been spent to “iimprove” it and the work is not yet over. I used to be able to find my way around the old station when changing trains, because there was a display board timetable on every platform, and reasonably sized comprehensive indicator boards. Not any more.

When you get off a train in Reading, you cannot see what platform you are on: the number is not displayed above the platform, but tucked away in small print to the side. In fact, it is quite difficult to see a sign saying Reading. There is no timetable on display. The electronic indicator boards are few and far between; they don’t tell you about all the trains and they don’t tell you about intermediate stations. And the print is tiny. So you have to go up to the concourse on a very slow escalator and hunt around. All you get there is a board showing the next train to your destination and indicator boards with no more useful information. It is rare to find a staff member to assist. More than once I have missed the connecting train because I could not discover at which platform it would be stopping. So I met the manager and walked him through it. “Ah”, he said, “now we see it through a passenger’s eyes . . .”  No improvement has taken place. How much can it cost to display a printed timetable? And now all the platforms are open to the elements and the wind and rain rush around the unprotected commuters.

Then I noticed that the printed timetables on display boards have also been removed from my local station. I asked why. I was told that no-one under 30 was capable of reading them any more! Even the pocket-size printed timetables have less information than they used to. I decided to ask a parliamentary written question about this. It is government money, ie taxpayers’ money, that is funding the station redevelopment, and there ought to be some consideration of our travel needs. This is the answer I got from the Department of Transport:

All investment works undertaken by Network Rail to enhance or renew the national rail network are delivered to required standards that are included within the Governance for Railway Investment Projects (GRIP) process. As part of the multi-million pound investment in upgrading and improving the Great Western Route, including Reading Station, Network Rail undertook an extensive GRIP process including detailed multi discipline and ergonomic design assessments balancing a wide range of factors including safety, performance, passenger information, weather protection, passenger facilities, accessibility and compliance with all relevant standards to reach the optimal design.”

Can you make head or tail of this? I couldn’t. When I looked up Governance for Railway Investment Projects,  this is what it said:-

We have developed this approach to managing projects in order to minimise and mitigate the risks associated with delivering projects that enhance or renew the operational railway and projects in a High Street environment.

Does this make any sense for the poor beleaguered commuter rushing from one platform to another? I have asked the question again in the hope of getting more sense from the Department, but in the meantime carry your Bradshaw’s with you when you travel. Oops, it isn’t published any more. You might resort to your ipad to look up the information, if you can find wifi at the station. If you are not so lucky, tough.




2 comments for “Directionless travel

  1. 03/11/2014 at 8:03 pm

    I hadn’t noticed it being particularly difficult to navigate the new Reading station. I’ll have a look at how prominent the platform numbers are next time I’m there. You will almost always need to go up the “slow escalators” to the concourse anyway, given the large number of platforms, as it’s unlikely your new train will leave from the same platform.

    As for finding information, smartphones are the best way to go. You don’t need to worry about wifi. You can look up the platform number of your next train before you even arrive at the station, so that you can go straight there. That way it’s possible to catch trains you simply wouldn’t have had time to if you had to look for information at the station.

  2. tizres
    03/11/2014 at 10:09 pm

    “Can you make head or tail of this?”

    Yes. Swap?

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