Northern Ticket Machine Update Issues

Discussion in 'UK Railway Discussion' started by Jozhua, 14 Jul 2019.

  1. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    The Trainline app takes 4 screens to get to a purchase and that's including a journey plan.

    There is no reason why that exact same interface (just with tweaks to accept a physical payment card once that stage is reached, and to print tickets instead of asking how you'd like to receive them) wouldn't work on a touchscreen TVM.

    If I thought the railway was competent enough I'd almost think they were making TVMs deliberately rubbish to encourage phone use.
     
  2. northernman

    northernman Member

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    Hi all,

    I am the retail systems manager for Northern, the TVMs fall under my remit. Sorry to hear some people do not like our new software. We have run focus groups and also stakeholder groups and met with quite favorable feedback. That said, things can only be improved upon and a few areas I wish to change, so if people would like to leave feedback here, I will pick it up along with our other channels. If you don't mind me contacting you to discuss, that would also be great. Its our first change of software for around 7 years, so to provide such a large scale change which includes: anywhere to anywhere ticketing, ticket for any day, Duos, reservations, Darwen feed and Smart seasons has been quite some effort to pull together. However all feedback is welcome.

    Many thanks
    Ian Borthwick, Retail Systems Manager, Northern
     
  3. CyrusWuff

    CyrusWuff Established Member

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    Obviously there'd be a cost implication, but I'd have thought the ideal solution would be to default to the old interface and have a "Tickets for Future Travel" button on the popular tickets and popular destinations screens to switch to the journey planner interface.
     
  4. Saperstein

    Saperstein Member

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    How about “Quickfare” type of machine at some stations (space permitting) in addition to the normal TVMs?

    This could be useful for quick purchases of popular tickets, obviously nothing too complicated!

    BTW I remember the original Quickfare machines and it was anything but quick! One wrong press and it took a good 30 seconds for the cancel button to work and enable you to start again!

    Saperstein.
     
  5. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    SWR have some of those and they're a nuisance when you queue only to find it doesn't do your fare.

    The front "popular destinations" screen is basically the same thing.
     
  6. Roast Veg

    Roast Veg Member

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    Purchased a return ticket to an unpopular destination at Wakefield Westgate last night and it was madness. I rarely purchase advance singles and have no desire to use a journey planner when I can pick my own services - even after picking my "outbound journey" the area I needed ot go through to actually buy the ticket wasn't made clear.

    There's no reason why a web design can't be applied to TVMs - that's what we have electron for!
     
  7. Jozhua

    Jozhua Member

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    Hi,

    Thank-you so much for your response. I apologise for the fact your hard work has been met with negative responses, my choice of title for this thread probably wasn't particularly nice to hear. Ultimately, I appreciate the thought of including advance fares into the ticket vending machine process, however I feel the implementation involves too many steps.

    I think maybe what's happened in regards to focus groups/stakeholder groups having more favourable responses to passengers/customers (as well as the negative bias this thread title may attract) is that when you've come in to an office and given plenty of time to learn and navigate a system, it probably seems fine. However, at a station when people may have a short amount of time to purchase a ticket and are in a more time critical setting, the system can be confusing/frustrating and feels like it is working against you.

    Here are my personal ideas as to what might work better:
    1. Moving the machines back to the previous software for the time being, (or at least the majority, leaving one or two available for the purchase of advance tickets.)
    2. Removing the "basket" and related prompts as well as the prompt regarding the receipts.
    3. Moving the advance ticket options to a different menu altogether, such as the tickets from other stations and ticket collection as generally people don't arrive at the station with the intention of booking a ticket in advance and simply want a standard single/return fare as quickly as possible. Although, I do appreciate the consideration of adding this in as a feature.
    4. Making tickets to "other" stations, rather than the five most popular easy to access, perhaps just a search bar at the top that can be pressed and directly typed into would work best.
    5. Removing a need to look at a timetable when purchasing a normal ticket.

    Obviously trying to give passengers more ticket options seems like it has been a major challenge and I understand that you wish to present them with all the options available, some of which likely provide significantly better value. However, the experience from me and other people I talked to at the TVMs seemed to be that of considerable confusion. A system which provides better ticketing options isn't as useful if people can't work out how to buy the tickets!

    Thanks a lot for listening to and engaging with our concerns, really means a lot to me and likely to other people on this thread as well!
     
  8. ic31420

    ic31420 Member

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    Great to see people from Northern getting involved here, rather than dismissing us as trainspotting nutters.

    My personal issue with the new machine (Bromley Cross) is that in direct sun the screen is useless thus I cant buy a ticket.

    Personally for speed you can't beat the old fashioned BR type TVM. Two propper buttons and your tickets are ready. Much more efficient, but obviously dated and no good for all destinations.

    That said I'd imagine 40 destinations make up 95% of all tickets sold at any station.
     
  9. furlong

    furlong Established Member

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    Do they avoid overcharging for journeys where the passenger specifies travelling out by one route and returning by another, where they should issue a return accompanied by a change of route excess? (Or else sell the cheaper return and explain how to obtain the appropriate excess and what it will cost - ideally on an accompanying printed slip.)
     
  10. XC victim

    XC victim Member

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    I haven’t used a Northern TVM lately but I used a Chiltern machine a few days ago and found it ridiculously over complicated. Is there anyway to bypass all the screens and just buy an Off Peak Return or whatever to a destination station. If you are a regular customer and know what ticket you need the whole process should take about 30 seconds tops.

    The thing that really annoys me in Northern land is the announcements that say “If you are unable to pay by card” then you can pay cash on the train rather than “if you would rather pay by cash”. Some people may just rather pay by cash rather than card for many reasons, even if they are able to pay by card.
     
  11. startingaparty

    startingaparty Member

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    I wanted to buy a weekly season ticket but could not find the option anywhere. Luckily arrived at the station early so I could go to the ticket office but God knows what I would have done if I was running late.
     
  12. CN12

    CN12 New Member

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    Ian,
    Another little problem for you to look into, Layton station has got nice new train information system, unfortunately all trains are shown as departing from Platform 1! This has been going on since it was installed after the electrification. I’ve called customer service at least 3 times and emailed them but no avail. So over to you.

    Cheers, Mike (ex railway)
     
  13. Bantamzen

    Bantamzen Established Member

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    I do agree that separating advanced as well as season fares onto another menu option is a good idea, as is having the option to search by destination, so perhaps the splash screen could display options along the lines of:

    • Search Destinations - To allow passengers to quickly enter their choice of destination, and choose ticketing options based on their choice
    • Quick / Popular Fares - This would list options based on the main services to that station, & most popular tickets bought
    • Tickets on Demand - For the web bought tickets.
    • Season Tickets / Rovers - As the software rolls out to allow buying these types.
    • Advanced Search - This could launch the web based engine / cart function which is the current new version.
    This isn't necessarily a definitive list or order of options, but might help passengers make quick choices based on what types of tickets they want. Its not a million miles off the original build, so hopefully wouldn't be too card to code up. As others have said, most passengers coming up to a TVM will want a quick single/return to a destination along one of the routes serving the station, followed by people picking up ToDs and buying season tickets. So separating the different types out at the splash screen should help quicken the process for most, whilst still allowing the smaller number of passengers the option to buy more complex and/or advanced tickets.

    And of course when it comes to season tickets on smartcards, I do really appreciate the function introduced for West Yorkshire MCards, whereby simply putting the card into the reader initiates the renewal process & offers a one touch renew now option. So as smartcards are rolled out, this practice needs to be used as it means a season can be renewed in under 30 seconds. It might also be worth having a message on the splash screen informed smartcard users to simply start by inserting their cards, in case they aren't yet aware.
     
  14. northernman

    northernman Member

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    Hello all, firstly, thanks for the feedback, it’s always welcome. I have looked at the feedback so far and will focus on the TVM specific requests, as opposed to general Northern comments if that’s OK, some background first to set the scene.


    In the Serco/Abellio Northern franchise we installed circa 100 TVMs mainly from Parkeon (now renamed Flowbird), they were purchased on the standard ROI business case, so went to the stations that would generate the greatest return. The software was the basic “tickets from that location, for today with discounts and ticket collection”, but overall pretty basic.


    Under the Arriva franchise there was a requirement for penalty fares, and that required means to purchase, so shortly Northern will complete its project to install 638 machines across our network. It’s a huge investment in ticketing (along with Smart, Mobile aps, ticket office upgrades and on train sales/validation). The committed obligation was to install machines, so they went in with the phase 1 software as per the pervious franchise. Release 2 software has been about how we make the machines much more useful, and open them up to things traditionally TVMs could not do. So by comparison:


    Current Release 1
    Tickets for today
    Tickets from home location only
    Ticket on Departure
    Mcard Season tickets

    New Release 2
    Tickets for any day
    Tickets from anywhere to anywhere
    Ticket on Departure
    Smartcard and Mcard season tickets
    Duo
    AP Fares with reservation
    Bank note recycling with notes as change
    Darwen live train feed
    Automatic fares updating on a daily basis

    The challenge is that railway ticketing, fares, routes etc is complicated. Criticism leveled at release 1 software was that it offered little choice, so by opening up Release 2, it gives our passengers more choice. It will evolve and get better, so thanks for your feedback!
     
  15. northernman

    northernman Member

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    To address many of the points raised, and in no particular order:

    Jozhua: Moving the machines back to the previous software for the time being, (or at least the majority, leaving one or two available for the purchase of advance tickets.)

    Ian: We need the software to support Smart season sales as part of our committed obligation. Currently we do not plan to roll back, and we are expecting to complete roll out in the next 4 weeks

    Jozhua: Removing the "basket" and related prompts as well as the prompt regarding the receipts.

    Ian: Noted, we will look at both thanks

    Jozhua: Moving the advance ticket options to a different menu altogether, such as the tickets from other stations and ticket collection as generally people don't arrive at the station with the intention of booking a ticket in advance and simply want a standard single/return fare as quickly as possible. Although, I do appreciate the consideration of adding this in as a feature.

    Ian: With our Advance Purchase on the day (with counted space) it’s a requirement to show those fares as they may indeed be the best for the customer, even if it’s a few more button presses. However I think we can do more with the times/fares screen to make it clearer

    Jozhua: Making tickets to "other" stations, rather than the five most popular easy to access, perhaps just a search bar at the top that can be pressed and directly typed into would work best.

    Ian: Noted, we will look at that, thanks

    Jozhua Removing a need to look at a timetable when purchasing a normal ticket.

    Ian: Interesting one. Passenger feedback at unstaffed stations tells us that people want to know if their train is running before they make a purchase, this feature helps them to gain the confidence. But maybe a ‘quick book’ feature is needed, thanks

    Ic31420: My personal issue with the new machine (Bromley Cross) is that in direct sun the screen is useless thus I can’t buy a ticket.

    Ian: OK fair enough, that pesky sun does tend to move around a lot (tongue firmly in cheek here… J Let me look at the siting for that machine

    Furlong: Do they avoid overcharging for journeys where the passenger specifies travelling out by one route and returning by another, where they should issue a return accompanied by a change of route excess? (Or else sell the cheaper return and explain how to obtain the appropriate excess and what it will cost - ideally on an accompanying printed slip.)

    Ian: Can you please give me an example, keen to ensure I answer your question correctly

    XC victim: I haven’t used a Northern TVM lately but I used a Chiltern machine a few days ago and found it ridiculously over complicated. Is there any way to bypass all the screens and just buy an Off Peak Return or whatever to a destination station. If you are a regular customer and know what ticket you need the whole process should take about 30 seconds tops.

    Ian: Same supplier/Software. I think there may be scope for a quick book, so thanks, we will look at that

    Startingaparty: I wanted to buy a weekly season ticket but could not find the option anywhere. Luckily arrived at the station early so I could go to the ticket office but God knows what I would have done if I was running late.

    Ian: seasons are a separate button on the front screen

    CN12: Another little problem for you to look into, Layton station has got nice new train information system, unfortunately all trains are shown as departing from Platform 1!

    Ian: thanks I will raise it internally with the appropriate people
     
  16. northernman

    northernman Member

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    Bantamzen: I do agree that separating advanced as well as season fares onto another menu option is a good idea, as is having the option to search by destination, so perhaps the splash screen could display options along the lines of:
    Ian: The challenge here is that Northern do a very popular AP on the day ticket, so you can literally turn up, buy, reserve a counted space and travel there and then. It’s often the most cost effective solution, so it really needs to be in the main fares displayed, but point taken


    Bantamzen :search Destinations - To allow passengers to quickly enter their choice of destination, and choose ticketing options based on their choice
    Ian: Can we discuss please? There is a search destination button, it’s <touch screen/other destinations/search>


    Bantamzen Quick / Popular Fares - This would list options based on the main services to that station, & most popular tickets bought
    Ian: that’s what the first screen having pressed “buy tickets” shows, we have a limitation of 10 slots to show the most commons destination/ticket combination, and we are currently reviewing that with a view to updating

    Bantamzen Tickets on Demand - For the web bought tickets.
    Ian Yes exists, first screen

    Bantamzen: Season Tickets / Rovers - As the software rolls out to allow buying these types.
    Ian: Season tickets exists on the first screen. Rovers/Rangers are not on the new software yet, but we are exploring how we get them on

    Bantamzen Advanced Search - This could launch the web based engine / cart function which is the current new version.
    Ian: OK we have that, but it doesn’t really look like a web page, so maybe some through as to display, thanks and noted

    Bantamzen: And of course when it comes to season tickets on smartcards, I do really appreciate the function introduced for West Yorkshire MCards, whereby simply putting the card into the reader initiates the renewal process & offers a one touch renew now option
    Ian:
    TVMs in West Yorks offer both Mcard and the North of England Smartcard as options

    Bantamzen So as smartcards are rolled out, this practice needs to be used as it means a season can be renewed in under 30 seconds. It might also be worth having a message on the splash screen informed smartcard users to simply start by inserting their cards, in case they aren't yet aware.

    Ian: OK thanks, we are looking at the; information on the TVM to aid passengers with this kind of thing. On some machines we already have a sticker around the Smartcard reader

    Cyruswuff: Whilst the journey planner functionality is useful in some ways (e.g. letting you buy a restricted ticket early and selling Advance tickets), if you're not buying a "popular" ticket it takes at least three times longer to do so than on the original software.

    Ian: Noted, we will look at what we can do to improve that. It’s a balance between speed of issue, and making sure people buy the ticket appropriate for the journey they are making
     
  17. northernman

    northernman Member

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    Js517 There are some truly appalling interfaces on some of the current machines. Earlier this year I had the misfortune to need to use the TVM at Garforth. In order to buy a day return to Hull (the destination of many trains from there) for immediate travel, the system required 17 button presses. This combined with the poor responsiveness of the touch screen (only about 1 in 4 presses worked) made for a very poor experience.

    Ian: Apologies you found the TVM difficult to use. It’s a mixture of trying to ensure you are offered the right fare, versus the complexity of the fares system. However I will look at the sequences and see what we can do to improve the offering

    PR1berske: The hitbox problem really needs to be resolved for these machines. I liken them to electronic jukeboxes positioned either too high/low or angled, causing the user to become inventive with how they turn their thumb. If the hitbox for a specific destination is such that the customer presses a town miles from where they want to be, then that's less than useless. Is the problem something to do with the size of the screens?

    Ian: Can we discuss your issues please. I think either screen calibration was faulty, and we can fix that, or maybe the size/sensitivity is not correct for the machine(s) you used

    Johntea: There is a cheaper fare available: SENIOR RAILCARD DISCOUNT", Thanks for the offer, but I'm not quite at that stage of my life yet!

    Ian: Oops sorry! No offence mean Johntea!!!

    Bantamzen: [realist]Or perhaps a symptom of an overly convoluted, and for most punters staggeringly confusing pricing structure across the network, and as a result trying to make the user interfaces (UI) of both web portals and TVMs as simple as possible, but yet offer the most choice an almost impossible task.[/realist]


    Ian: That is the challenge to offer the range of fares/routes/times but in an environment that isn’t online in your front room. We will keep working on improving the software but we had to start somewhere. Thanks for the feedback
     
  18. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

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    I have never had a problem using any of the Northern machines other than in bright sunlight. It is a touch screen interface. Seems to work quite well and i am a fat fingered northern bloke

    this board is so crushingly conservative and hidebound at times.

    As @Bletchleyite says: Never assume a conspiracy. It is indicative of poor user testing rather than anything else.

    Spot on

    That is because people complain vociferously that the machines don't offer them the cheapest fare!

    That I agree with: One machine, one system across the whole network. They can be stickered up to please each TOC.
     
    Last edited: 16 Jul 2019
  19. NorthernSpirit

    NorthernSpirit On Moderation

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    @northernman

    If / when the Rover and Ranger tickets are introduced from these TVM's, will it be all rovers / rangers or only a handful? As I travel all over Britain and use whatever rovers or rangers that are available e.g. Bristol area Freedom Travelpass, West Yorkshire DayRover, Merseyside Saveaway, Derbyshire Wayfarer, etc.
     
  20. Bantamzen

    Bantamzen Established Member

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    @northernman Firstly, thanks for the engagement in this. It proves really useful to show on forums like this that Northern does take onboard feedback (I know this through my local RUG / Friends of Group). As for the topic at hand, my suggestions are more around tweaking the initial splash screen, making it as clear as possible what the various options are, rather than the rest of the interface. Now I must admit I've only used Release 2 once at Shipley, and that was in a bit of a rush if I'm honest! So if some of the functionality is available via the opening view with R2 then that's fair enough.

    Just with regards to a couple of specifics, the 'Other Destinations' option for the search by destination function might be better retitled something 'Search By Destination'? Its only a small change, but might help signpost those passengers unsure which option to go for.

    As for smartcard renewals, I know at the West Yorks stations it was initially a little confusing where the NFC reader for updating the MCards actually was. My first instinct was to try the payment card NFC reader, it was only by a bit of trial and error that I realised that the card reader at the bottom of the screen was the correct one. I did raise it as an issue via your Social Media team at the time, and to be fair a little while later stickers were installed around the reader to indicate that it was the correct place to place smartcards. However maybe a small graphic and/or pointer on the splash screen to advise passengers where to put their smartcard to initiate the renewal process would aid new users, as well as highlighting to passengers unaware that smartcard seasons might be available for them.
     
  21. Indigo2

    Indigo2 Established Member

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    Could it be that no TOC on its own is big enough, has a long enough franchise payback period, etc. to be willing/able to spend the sort of money and/or invest the sort of time and commitment that would be necessary to develop a really good user interface?

    You made a comparison with the Swiss system - but there there is one huge, dominant operator (Swiss Federal Railways/SBB) which probably has the clout to lead and let the smaller private operators follow? Also it's not constrained by franchise lengths nor the requirement to make a profit.

    The other difference is that the apps probably have different business models, with the company that operates the app probably taking a percentage of the revenue (I don't know for sure but that's my guess), giving them a motivation to invest more into better app design, whereas with TVMs the TOC generally insists on keeping all the revenue from tickets sold, so there is less of an incentive for TVM suppliers to invest heavily in user interface design?

    It all really comes down to fragmentation of the industry, I think?
     
  22. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    The latter is valid, but the former...Switzerland is not a very big country, and SBB is probably the size of a large TOC - something like GWR might be a vaguely reasonable comparison - a couple of mainlines and a load of branches.

    NS, another European railway with a decent TVM UI, is about the size of Southern, Southeastern, SWR or similar.

    I think it's about getting the studies right, and putting a prototype into operation for people to try, perhaps under staff guidance - and genuinely listening to the feedback (unlike, e.g., the Class 195 seat study, where a winner was clearly found and then they just did something entirely different - not that the result seems to be particularly bad, but if you're going to do a study why bother if you'll just disregard it?)

    I'd be interested in exactly what kind of study, testing etc was done and how far along (i.e what it was genuinely viable to change).
     
  23. jtuk

    jtuk Member

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    Glad to hear that the software is changing to allow many more options compared to the relatively limited choice currently available, I've actively avoided making journeys in the past on account of the ticket office being closed and the TVM not offering the ticket wanted on more than one occasion
     
  24. radamfi

    radamfi Established Member

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    By now there shouldn't be such a dependence on ticket machines and especially not ticket offices. But there is one significant advantage to using machines over m-tickets/e-tickets in that you get cashback and/or Nectar points for buying online and picking up from the machine. However, picking up tickets means you don't have to go deep into the menu system.

    So buying at the machine is not only tedious, you also lose money that way.
     
  25. Dr Hoo

    Dr Hoo Established Member

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    On the 'sun-on-screen' point, in my experience most ticket purchase seems to take place in the mornings, when the sun is in the south-east. So it isn't a good idea to install machines facing south-east in an un-canopied area. Hope (Derbyshire) station is a prime example of this and the machine is often unusable.

    At Chinley, on the other hand, the machine is both inside the shelter and facing north-west so is always easy to use.

    Is solar astronomy part of the training content for Northern ticket machine planners?
     
  26. Harpers Tate

    Harpers Tate Established Member

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    Actually it would be very easy for all such outdoor touch-screen displays (ATMs Parking, EV chargers, Tickets) to work in any lighting condition except darkness (which we don't have - there's always some artificial lighting) - and that is to use EPaper as the display tech. It's only monochrome (I believe) - but that's just cosmetics. EPaper (as used in various EReaders) uses ambient light as illumination so it works in any conditions.
     
  27. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Epaper is very slow to update, though, and might make a TVM frustrating to use.

    What might work is instead of a TFT display a classic passive-matrix (but backlit) monochrome LCD, which works best in high light. The only question is whether these are still manufactured.
     
  28. takno

    takno Established Member

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    In addition to being comparatively very expensive, Epaper tech has a strictly limited life in terms of the number of times the display can be changed, and is quite slow to change the display. That doesn't matter in personal devices where you are expecting to read a whole page before moving on, or on displays which only change once every few hours like reservation coupons. For a ticket machine though it would get worn out in a couple of months, and would probably double the time taken for users to get through the 8000 screens it takes to be issued with a ticket.
     
  29. SteveP29

    SteveP29 Member

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    I've found with the LNER ones that the screen is angled to a degree that you actually have to press above the letter you want to hit it properly because of my height (6' 1") and I think that's programmed like that deliberately because the screens are positioned in the unit lower than the average height
     
  30. Harpers Tate

    Harpers Tate Established Member

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    "E-ink Corporation declares lifetime Screen E-ink Pearl equal to 10 million screen updates"
    https://e-ink-reader.ru/eink_degradation_en.php
    How true, I don't know. If true, I wonder how long that represents in terms of TVM usage.
     

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