"First Class at the front of the train"

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Sheepy1209

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I travelled from Hinckley to Blackpool by rail on Friday - all went well, no problems at all, which was handy as I'd booked three separate advance fares to keep the cost down (via Birmingham and Manchester instead of via Crewe and Warrington).

Anyway, waiting for the XC service at New Street, the platform display said "1st Class at Front of Train".

All very helpful I'm sure, but how is anyone supposed to know which end is the front? Especially as it was from Bristol Temple Meads, and changed direction to head to Manchester....and New Street does a good job of cutting passengers off from the real world so there are no clues.

Furthermore, there will probably be more passengers holding reservations who'd like to know where coach "D" or "E" is than there will be 1st-class ticket holders.


I'm only pondering the question, I don't know what the answer is - does anyone have any ideas? The current arrangement just seems a bit pointless and there was the inevitable scramble when the train came in!
 
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MidnightFlyer

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You can always tell on a Voyager as the First Class end of the train has a yellow coupler, the Standard Class end has an unpainted coupler. At New St though I have seen the dispatch staff directing people when asked to whereabouts they should go for whatever coach on plenty of occasions. As 1st is a more specific (i.e. smaller) area too, I think that it makes sense to differentiate that - people should then be able to work out that the rest of it is for Standard ticket holders.

I agree though that it doesn't always help at a place like New St, where trains to / from the South West can leave in either direction.
 

MarkyMarkD

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One thing which the rail operators do badly is indicating where each carriage may be found. It would eliminate a lot of faffing about - and people waking the whole length of the train - if there were carriage letter indicators on platforms for the next train to arrive (obviously for trains where it is relevant - longer distance reservable trains especially.
 

SS4

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Some of the trains from the South West go via Camp Hill before heading into new street, effectively reversing the train.
I suspect that this was an automatic announcement so it'd be my guess that they're basically guessing
 

marks87

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Some stations have coloured "zones" on the platforms, that are used to direct passengers to the correct area; could that work at New St?
 

MidnightFlyer

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One thing which the rail operators do badly is indicating where each carriage may be found. It would eliminate a lot of faffing about - and people waking the whole length of the train - if there were carriage letter indicators on platforms for the next train to arrive (obviously for trains where it is relevant - longer distance reservable trains especially.

EC still have boards out indicating where carriages stop on their platforms. Virgin also use three 'zones' (blue, purple and gold) to indicate where to stand - posters tell you what each zone is for.
 

SS4

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Some stations have coloured "zones" on the platforms, that are used to direct passengers to the correct area; could that work at New St?

Could do although again it'd only work for fixed formations and would be pointless until after Gateway. For the longer trains (i.e. Pendos to London) they describe first as being at the A end of the platform.
 

marks87

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Could do although again it'd only work for fixed formations
Would it?

Surely it's known in advance what the train is formed of, so the zone announced is changed accordingly (e.g. "First class in gold zone" for one service then "First class in blue zone" for another).
and would be pointless until after Gateway.
Forgive my ignorance, but what's Gateway?
 

SS4

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Would it?

Surely it's known in advance what the train is formed of, so the zone announced is changed accordingly (e.g. "First class in gold zone" for one service then "First class in blue zone" for another).

Ah, I misunderstood. I thought you meant literally painting the platform for some reason. Surely it would still require a manual announcement for non-standard formations and in my experience there are too many announcements needed for the sake of first class

Forgive my ignorance, but what's Gateway?

Gateway Plus, the regeneration of BHM. In all honesty I should've been less lazy and added the Plus.
 

marks87

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Ah, I misunderstood. I thought you meant literally painting the platform for some reason. Surely it would still require a manual announcement for non-standard formations and in my experience there are too many announcements needed for the sake of first class
It would be on the display - so instead of "First class at front/rear", it would be "First class in *** zone".
Gateway Plus, the regeneration of BHM. In all honesty I should've been less lazy and added the Plus.
I still wouldn't have known, even with the plus :oops:
 

calc7

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As already mentioned, given that Voyagers from Wolverhampton can go either via Smethwick or via Aston; whilst those from Cheltenham can go via Five Ways or via Camp Hill, coupled with the fact that these trains can be 4- 5- 8- 9- or 10-coaches in length, I think the only real winner would be some form of dynamic boards (all it has to do is light up COACH A HERE or some such).
 

SS4

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It would be on the display - so instead of "First class at front/rear", it would be "First class in *** zone".

The OP mentioned that directionality was a problem insofar as trains could depart from either end so it wouldn't be known which end would be first class and by extension which zone would be in. Let's say our hypothetical train is from Bristol to Manchester via Birmingham. This train can either arrive via University and the Cross City Line ending up needing to reverse (hence if 1st was at the front leaving Bristol it would be at the back leaving Birmingham). Alternatively the train can go via Camp Hill and come in from the opposite direction negating the need to reverse so first would be at the front.
In other words at BHM the train could have first at the front or back so you could only designate zones for the majority of the trains leaving the rest requiring a manual announcement or a change to the screens.

Add to that voyagers from Wolves can go via Smethwick or Bescot
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
tl;dr: Short of manually announcing non-standard train formations the current system is the only workable one
 

marks87

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The OP mentioned that directionality was a problem insofar as trains could depart from either end so it wouldn't be known which end would be first class and by extension which zone would be in. Let's say our hypothetical train is from Bristol to Manchester via Birmingham. This train can either arrive via University and the Cross City Line ending up needing to reverse (hence if 1st was at the front leaving Bristol it would be at the back leaving Birmingham). Alternatively the train can go via Camp Hill and come in from the opposite direction negating the need to reverse so first would be at the front.
In other words at BHM the train could have first at the front or back so you could only designate zones for the majority of the trains leaving the rest requiring a manual announcement or a change to the screens.

Add to that voyagers from Wolves can go via Smethwick or Bescot
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
tl;dr: Short of manually announcing non-standard train formations the current system is the only workable one
I'm not sure I follow your argument.

Even though though some trains can arrive and depart in either direction, the paths (and formation) are surely known far enough in advance to know 1) which direction it's coming from and 2) given that direction, where first class will be.

That allows the screens showing the train information to display the correct zone.
 

ralphchadkirk

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I'm not sure I follow your argument.

Even though though some trains can arrive and depart in either direction, the paths (and formation) are surely known far enough in advance to know 1) which direction it's coming from and 2) given that direction, where first class will be.

That allows the screens showing the train information to display the correct zone.
And what happens during disruption and VSTP working?
 

lemonic

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In Germany, at many stations they have sections on the platform labelled e.g. A to F. On the electronic screen there is a diagram of the train showing what sections it is stopping in e.g. BCDE with say B containing 1st Class and C, D, E containing 2nd class. I have seen a train arrive in reverse formation with a clear message at the top of the screen showing this and the diagram being reversed.

I am sure a similar system could be implemented in the UK and would not depend on the direction the train comes from and also allows people to see in advance where they should stand.

There are also posters on platforms at main stations in Germany showing long-distance trains and where exactly each carriage will stop. Duplication is avoided as each platform is published in advance and rarely changed.
 

SS4

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I'm not sure I follow your argument.

Even though though some trains can arrive and depart in either direction, the paths (and formation) are surely known far enough in advance to know 1) which direction it's coming from and 2) given that direction, where first class will be.

That allows the screens showing the train information to display the correct zone.

By whom? BHM is a busy station and I doubt they've the time to set it. It certainly seems a lot to go to the trouble of zone colouring for a few non-standard formations
 

34D

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I think the point is that (to the unfamiliar) they walk onto a platform, and have no idea which will be front and which will be back. Especially so at busy stations where trains can and do go both ways on tracks.

Screens saying 'wait here for coach D' seem an excellent idea. This would also cover off a train reversing (does 'front' mean as the train enters the platform, or as the train leaves?).
 

DaveNewcastle

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There are a variety of displays on some stations which indicate where each 'lettered' coach will stop, including large A-frames placed on the ground and metal panels on lamposts or other structures.

Recently I was impressed to see that the signs at Morpeth appear to be much more home-made, printed on A4 paper and sealed or laminated then attached to the fence, each indicating the coach 'letter' of where an East Coast train would stop. The banner at the top of each sheet was for SENRUG (South East Northumberland Rail Users Group), which just goes to show that if anyone feels adequately unimpressed with the facilities provided by a TOC, there's always the potential to 'do it yourself'.
 

Sheepy1209

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Interesting responses - I thought someone would point out to me something obvious that I'd missed.

At Preston I think the Gold / Blue zone markers are still there, but I'm not sure whether they're used anymore (they pre-date the Pendolinos). Nevertheless, trains don't reverse and it's a bit easier to work out which way is north or south, but it would be wrong to assume everyone knows.

I also remember when the HSTs were introduced on the ECML, coach plans were displayed at Retford I seem to recall - but then HSTs were distinctive, recognisable by the general public, and there wasn't much else stopping there.

Even though I'm a regular rail user I do find it stressful when I can't see which coach is which (e.g. the LED displays used by Virgin are too small to read easily when the train's still moving), and information like that really does help.
 

MidnightFlyer

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At Preston I think the Gold / Blue zone markers are still there, but I'm not sure whether they're used anymore (they pre-date the Pendolinos). Nevertheless, trains don't reverse and it's a bit easier to work out which way is north or south, but it would be wrong to assume everyone knows.

They remain and they were in use on the electric departures boards until recently - they are now displayed on posters instead but are very much still used.
 

MarkyMarkD

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As already mentioned, given that Voyagers from Wolverhampton can go either via Smethwick or via Aston; whilst those from Cheltenham can go via Five Ways or via Camp Hill, coupled with the fact that these trains can be 4- 5- 8- 9- or 10-coaches in length, I think the only real winner would be some form of dynamic boards (all it has to do is light up COACH A HERE or some such).
That's what I envisaged. OK, it means a few extra LED boards. But there aren't enough boards at many stations anyway - often there are 12-carriage platforms with just two display boards, meaning that unless you hang around the centre of the platform, leading to congestion, you can't see the information.

What's the point in "formed of 8 coaches" when you really want to know what stops where?

I've also been standing at Stratford International waiting for a 6 coach HS1 and been in completely the wrong place - because I didn't realise which direction the train was going! (For some reason I find that station confusing).
 

gswindale

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Markers on the platform don't help when the train is short-formed.

Travelled from Bristol Parkway to Neath at the end of Feb. Reserved seat in coach H. Stood at the correct boarding point and when the train arrived discovered I was in line with the rear powercar!
 

142094

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One of the problems you get is when several different operators stop at the same station - taking for example York platform 5. This is used by East Coast in both directions, with Crosscountry usually going south, it is the main platform for TPE services to Scarborough and the odd Northern train goes into here. No problems with East Coast as the trains are long enough to just about fill the whole platform. Crosscountry trains go right to the southern end of the platform (so the driver can see the signal), and you will always see a crowd of people running down to get on. TPE and Northern services stop just about where the footbridge is.

5 is also sometimes used by southbound GC services, and these also stop far down the platform. So in effect you'd need 5 different signs to show where each TOC and where each type of rolling stock stands.
 

Skymonster

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The process at Nottingham is a mess... The electronic displays often say "first class at the front" or "first class at the rear". However, the London trains reverse at Nottingham whether going further north or going back to London. I've seen passengers asking whether "first class at the front" means at the front when it arrives, or at the front when it departs. And for those passengers who don't realise the train will reverse but see it arrive, "front" and "rear" can send them in totally the wrong direction. At one time the signs used to say "first class at platform 4a / standard class at platform 4b" (or vice versa as appropriate) - that was a much more understandable approach for casual passenger understanding.

Andy
 

brianthegiant

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In Germany, at many stations they have sections on the platform labelled e.g. A to F. On the electronic screen there is a diagram of the train showing what sections it is stopping in e.g. BCDE with say B containing 1st Class and C, D, E containing 2nd class. I have seen a train arrive in reverse formation with a clear message at the top of the screen showing this and the diagram being reversed.

Yep from my experience the German system works quite well for ICEs.
In France they have a similar setup, which consists of a dot matrix screen showing the layout of the train in elevation view (ie side on, with the tapered 'loco' ends). underneath the train are a series of letters which relate to sections of the platform.

Where you have different stock/formations/directions/etc. probably an IT approach like this is the only solution which would allow for all the variables. I suspect the train formation data is already available on a secure database somewhere (eg what do the electronic reservation systems connect to). Development of a system shouldn't be that complex. Installation of each screen would then be similar to the cost of installing the various other platform info displays.

As someone who often has to find the cycle compartment on UK trains I'm acutely aware of the limitations of platform train formation information in this country....

Perhaps what is needed is for someone to do some research with a decent sample size, and generate some real numbers for the reduction in time it takes for passengers to find their carriage, and increase in punctuality when detailed train formation information is provided.
 

dvboy

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the suggestions for bhm posted above are all well and good but rely on VT&XC informing them of exceptions to standard formations too!
 

wintonian

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The CIS at Reading displays something along the lines of "first class is at the front as the train arrives" which I find quite helpful, they did on occasion (on the old plt 4 at least) direct standard class passengers to the purple zone, although not very often.

(what is it with all these first class threads ATM?)
 

LE Greys

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The zoning system, or the EC version of labelling the platform with boards showing where each coach is going to stop, seems to work well enough. And for stations where the train is likely to be waiting, how about, I don't know, painting a distinctive yellow stripe along the cantrail perhaps? :roll:
 

Ibex

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I travelled from Hinckley to Blackpool by rail on Friday - all went well, no problems at all, which was handy as I'd booked three separate advance fares to keep the cost down (via Birmingham and Manchester instead of via Crewe and Warrington).

Anyway, waiting for the XC service at New Street, the platform display said "1st Class at Front of Train".

All very helpful I'm sure, but how is anyone supposed to know which end is the front? Especially as it was from Bristol Temple Meads, and changed direction to head to Manchester....and New Street does a good job of cutting passengers off from the real world so there are no clues.

Furthermore, there will probably be more passengers holding reservations who'd like to know where coach "D" or "E" is than there will be 1st-class ticket holders.


I'm only pondering the question, I don't know what the answer is - does anyone have any ideas? The current arrangement just seems a bit pointless and there was the inevitable scramble when the train came in!



For me, the easiest (most passenger friendly) way to show all the information you've just mentioned is by one of these:
photo.PNG
 
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