appropriate, accurate and timely passenger information

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DaveNewcastle

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From the ORR today:
Train operators commit to providing appropriate, accurate and timely passenger information
7 March 2012

All train operators have signed-up to new licence conditions aimed at ensuring passengers receive appropriate, accurate and timely information, the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) confirmed today.

ORR Chief Executive, Richard Price, said:

“I am pleased that all train companies have now joined other parts of the rail industry by signing-up to new obligations aimed at ensuring passengers receive appropriate, accurate and timely information.

“ORR has repeatedly made clear that rail passengers should receive reliable information so that they can plan journeys and make informed decisions, especially when rail services are disrupted. It is striking that currently only one third of passengers think delays are handled well.

“The provision of good passenger information is a fundamental requirement, not an optional ‘add-on’. Good performers have nothing to fear, but poor performers will not be allowed to undermine the industry as a whole.

"We look forward to working with the rail industry as it gets on with the job of meeting passengers’ expectations, ensuring that train operators, working with station managers and Network Rail, meet the standards set out in their own code of practice on passenger information.”
http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.10855

Poor passenger information in times of disruption has been a repeated complaint from passengers and their representative groups. Whether these 'new licence conditions' will deliver any moe radical improvements over the programmes of progressive enhancements already underway, or not, I'm not at all sure.
I'm well accustomed to 'announcements' such as this being used to make a new story out of established procedures. But I'm sure there are some people who will disagree and inform us of a impressive and genuinely new initiative which will now deliver travel the real-time information we've all been waiting for (perhaps the real-time information that amateur coders will be producing at their own expense thanks to the open-access to the industry's data streams?).
 
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Flamingo

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The problem is that information may not be available to be disseminated to passengers, in certain cases. Either the front-line staff have not got the information from Control, or Control themselves do not know what is going on in what can be very fluid situations where they are having to make a plan up on the fly.

Not to make excuses, but in these days of instant Twitter and people demanding instant feedback, sometimes they need to understand the information just is not there, or is subject to change.

I can give numerous cases of people demanding information in disruption caused by cable thefts, vandalism, weather or fatalities that just was not available, and would not take "nobody knows yet" as an answer.
 

DaveNewcastle

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Yes, I appreciate that the current system operates as well as it can, and the lack of available real-time information in times of disruption may simply not be available because alternative timetables haven't been devised - often they cannot be devised until further technical information and decisions from NR and other is available, after which operators have the daunting task of trying to re-schedule stock and staff to whatever alternatives become possible.

My comments were directed more towards the ORR who made this 'announcement' and querying whatever basis in fact that they were alluding to, which could justify an improvement in the flow of service information when (as we know) that information is unlikely to exist.
 

theblackwatch

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I generally find that staff will tell you what they know, I was involved in a delay last week on East Coast and we were kept fully informed by the onboard staff and this certainly helped ensure people didn't start complaining.

Quite often though, information is available but passengers are not advised, and the worst is via screens at stations - for example, I've been at stations where the main departures board shows a train to be 'On Time' either a few minutes before departure ot even after it should have left, yet the Live Departures system, which I've accessed via my phone, shows it as being late and not expected for another X minutes. Surely these different forms of real time information should be linked together to provide customers with the most accurate information?
 

Flamingo

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I aree there are circumstances where TOC's just don't help themselves. I do wonder if part of the problem is that there are too many ways that information can be disseminated and updated, and it's getting the same information onto all the different sources at the same time.
 

WelshBluebird

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My main problem is when staff essentially make things up instead up just telling people that they do not know.
Length of delays are a good example of this.
I have lost count of the amount of times I have been told the delay will be 5 minutes, only to be told 5 minutes later that we have to wait another 5 minutes, and so on. Why can't staff just say "I don't know yet"?
Actually, I am adding in an edit here. Credit to some staff. They do just say "I am sorry but I don't know anything more at this time". I just wish all staff would admit to that in the same situation!

And as already mentioned, departure screens are awful for this.
A quick example is the Barnstaple branch. As a train terminating at Barnstaple will make up the next service back towards Exeter, it is bloody obvious that if the incoming train is half an hour late, that will mean the train towards exeter will be late aswell (as the train won't be at Barnstaple until after it is supposed to leave!). Yet the little screen on the platform will still say on time, all the way up until (and past) when the train is due to leave. Surely the software used isn't that dull? It really isn't hard to make a piece of software understand things like dependancies (the train towards exeter being on time is dependent on the train coming into Barnstaple being on time).
 

Clip

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My main problem is when staff essentially make things up instead up just telling people that they do not know.
Length of delays are a good example of this.
I have lost count of the amount of times I have been told the delay will be 5 minutes, only to be told 5 minutes later that we have to wait another 5 minutes, and so on. Why can't staff just say "I don't know yet"?
Actually, I am adding in an edit here. Credit to some staff. They do just say "I am sorry but I don't know anything more at this time". I just wish all staff would admit to that in the same situation!
As flamigo has pointed out it can be a fluid situation where things may change after the 5 minutes has come and gone and unless control get that to their staff in time then they can only say what they have been told.

Think we have had the discussion about saying 'I dont know' on here before - this, in my experience can actually cause passengers to kick off more with 'Why dont you know, its your f**king job to know' and so on and so forth. Which leads to staff from some TOCs dissapearing to behind some glass to protect themselves.
 

Flamingo

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One chap once in Pad was screaming at me "You DO know when the train is leaving, you just won't tell me!" In the end I took out my pager, looked at the blank screen, said "At 13.30", and he walked off. If I had kept telling him "nobody knows yet" I think he would have either hit me or had a stroke!
 

barrykas

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And as already mentioned, departure screens are awful for this.
A quick example is the Barnstaple branch. As a train terminating at Barnstaple will make up the next service back towards Exeter, it is bloody obvious that if the incoming train is half an hour late, that will mean the train towards exeter will be late aswell. (snip)

Surely the software used isn't that dull? It really isn't hard to make a piece of software understand things like dependancies.
Timetable files used by Customer Information Systems CAN incorporate details of the train's next working and whether said next working is for passenger or operational use, but it's reliant on Train Planners to provide the necessary data, the TOC receiving updates including the Associations, and the chosen CIS to act upon the information.

In addition, some stations run their CIS in "Manual" mode, requiring the CIS Operator to enter delays manually for both arrivals and departures.

Cheers,

Barry
 

jopsuk

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There's a few times I've been on trains stopped in the middle of the countryside where the announcement from the driver or guard has been along the lines of "well, no-one is telling me why we're stopped, so I can't tell you any more. I'll update you when I know more"
 

michael769

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Yes, I appreciate that the current system operates as well as it can, and the lack of available real-time information in times of disruption may simply not be available because alternative timetables haven't been devised - often they cannot be devised until further technical information and decisions from NR and other is available, after which operators have the daunting task of trying to re-schedule stock and staff to whatever alternatives become possible.
Even in scenarios like the the TOCs could do better. Getting systems to show something like "rescheduling of services is in progress - more information will available as soon as possible", would at the very least tell passengers that someone, somewhere was doing something. All too often at the moment the (wrong) impression is given that people are just sitting on their hands.
 

Flamingo

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There's a few times I've been on trains stopped in the middle of the countryside where the announcement from the driver or guard has been along the lines of "well, no-one is telling me why we're stopped, so I can't tell you any more. I'll update you when I know more"
A surprisingly large number of areas are out of signal. Also, pager messages do not cover every two minute stop at a signal.

If the driver is out of the cab talking to the signaller the guard can't contact him. When he gets back in if he has been given clearance to continue, the guard is not going to delay the train further by having a chat with the driver, it's better to get the train moving than find out the cause to satisfy peoples curiosity.

Also, if the train is running slow, the guard can't talk to the driver as it is a distraction, the driver would have to stop to talk, which would cause further delays.
 

jopsuk

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I appreciate this is the case- it just shows that much of the time if the staff aren't giving passengers information, it's because you don't have information.
 

Wath Yard

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I'm surprised as many as 1/3 of passengers are satisfied with the way TOCs deal with delays, it is generally pretty poor. On the train it is often down to how professional the on-train staff are as to how much information is given or how accurate it is. As an example, last year I was delayed on two journeys with the same TOC within a few days of each other. The first was a delay of over 1 hour and no information at all was provided, so I sought out the guard and asked what was happening only to be told 'I don't know, nobody has told me'. I suggested she might want to get in touch with control and find out and then she could advise us. A big sigh, and 15 minutes later she actually bothered to do it. On the second journey the delay was approx 10 mins, and the guard made an announcement after each stop informing passengers why the train had been delayed and apologising. Very professional indeed.

There are also cases of where the train hasn't even started its journey it shows as 'On Time' at subsequent stations even though it is obviously delayed, and trains showing as 'On Time' after the booked departure when it is still over 20 miles away, and my worst recent experience of all trains being delayed due to a failure blocking the line and the info screens constantly stated my train was 15 minutes away. This was obviously complete rubbish as the failed train had to be rescued. My train finally arrived 2 hours late.
 

Greenback

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I also find the CIS systems very frustrating. Manual announcements used to be made apologising for delays, now it is very hit and miss whether the automated system willr ecognise that a service is delayed. I've lost count of the number of times screens are showinga train as 'On Time' after the dpearture time has passed. It looks sloppy, it's unprofessional and it annoys people.

If the industry managed to improve on this aspect of information it would be a start.
 
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