Northern Ticket Machine Update Issues

Bletchleyite

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Dragging has usability issues for lots of users anyway
It's an interesting one, anyone used to a smartphone will know it but anyone not probably won't. Funnily enough I gave a collage photo frame thing to someone leaving our Scout Group a few weeks ago, and about the first thing she said after thanks (she is in her 50s and doesn't use a smartphone herself, just an old unbreakable Nokia) was something like "What's that small one of? I just tried to zoom in on it by pinching!"

That said, I think the big screen is a gimmick (no doubt expensive and more susceptible to vandalism than a smaller one) and the angled smaller screen used on Scheidt & Bachmann machines is preferable and will suit most people.
 
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Dr Hoo

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I get that the software design can probably at least be refined in situ but am so disappointed that so little real intelligent thought has been put into the positioning of the machines, which will be much more expensive to remedy.

Facing into the sun, exposed to heavy rain, positioned on ‘vortex corners’ in windy locations are bad enough. There is also the ‘ancillary issues’ question. For example, many machines are on platforms and hence close to passing trains. Anybody with a dog or young child has to hold on to them whilst attempting to use the interface, probably with their non-dominant hand. Then try extricating your bank card from a wallet single-handedly. At least an enclosed waiting shelter, like at Chinley, means that you can ‘let go’ for a few seconds.

Then there is the ‘coffee cup problem’. Most people these days seem to carry a drink container at all times and the train companies actually encourage people to always have water with them on hot days. Many people arrive at the machine toting a coffee that they have just purchased at a kiosk or shop on the way to the station and then have nowhere to put it down. Nobody would try and market a car these day’s without beverage holders so why aren’t they included with ticket machines?

These may seem like trivial issues but in real life it is all the faffing around with cups, leads, pushchair handles, umbrellas and what-have-you that extends transaction times and creates a stressful environment whilst people struggle to peer at the screen through rain-splattered bi-focals.
 

Bletchleyite

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Then there is the ‘coffee cup problem’. Most people these days seem to carry a drink container at all times and the train companies actually encourage people to always have water with them on hot days. Many people arrive at the machine toting a coffee that they have just purchased at a kiosk or shop on the way to the station and then have nowhere to put it down. Nobody would try and market a car these day’s without beverage holders so why aren’t they included with ticket machines?
Same reason cash machines don't have that either and have a sloped console - because people will fill it with litter :(
 

Killingworth

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Brilliant they are. After being out of action most of yesterday our TVM was fixed at 8.30 today, after the busy commuter period. A user was puzzled booking the 9.21 and a small queue formed. After watching several attempts I had to agree that despite it by then being 9.19 it would only allow him a ticket on the 10.21. The train arrived. About 6 got on without buying tickets. The TVM was reported closed down again about 12.00!
 

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sheff1

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Brilliant they are. After being out of action most of yesterday our TVM was fixed at 8.30 today, after the busy commuter period. A user was puzzled booking the 9.21 and a small queue formed. After watching several attempts I had to agree that despite it by then being 9.19 it would only allow him a ticket on the 10.21. The train arrived. About 6 got on without buying tickets. The TVM was reported closed down again about 12.00!
Brilliant indeed ! There is zero need to select a train for such a journey, the fare is the same whichever train you take.
 

WatcherZero

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Its set up to allow advance fares to be purchased, advance fares are a minimum of 15 minutes before the train so cant purchase a ticket for that train.

Yes its extra faff but the point is to allow the passenger the option of the cheapest fare rather than keeping it a online customer option.
 

Bletchleyite

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Its set up to allow advance fares to be purchased, advance fares are a minimum of 15 minutes before the train so cant purchase a ticket for that train.
Well, er, you can, you can purchase an Anytime. Or you should be able to.

Regulars of course know that you can just select any train you feel like and select an Anytime (or Off Peak if relevant). But Mr First Time Passenger doesn't (you can't, after all, buy a ticket for a flight right up to departure) and either boards and gets PFed at the destination or doesn't board and takes a totally unnecessary delay.
 

takno

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Its set up to allow advance fares to be purchased, advance fares are a minimum of 15 minutes before the train so cant purchase a ticket for that train.

Yes its extra faff but the point is to allow the passenger the option of the cheapest fare rather than keeping it a online customer option.
The whole process of offering a pathetically small discount of 10p or so to encourage travel on a particular Northern or Transpennine train just so that they can avoid sharing the revenue is a travesty in its own right. Introducing a fundamentally inconvenient and unworkable ticket machine flow to support vending it is frankly toxic behaviour. The DfT may have specified a couple of unworkable franchises, but the companies running them seem keen to go the extra mile to make their passengers lives a complete misery.
 

Bletchleyite

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I agree that Advances on short distance flows are silly, but there are benefits to a journey planner UI. It just doesn't seem outside the wit of man to have it interlinked with the PIS in some way so it will still sell a ticket for a train that hasn't departed yet.
 

exesoundtech

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I agree that Advances on short distance flows are silly, but there are benefits to a journey planner UI. It just doesn't seem outside the wit of man to have it interlinked with the PIS in some way so it will still sell a ticket for a train that hasn't departed yet.
Of course, the challenge then becomes how close do you leave it? Make the offset too long and some will think they had enough time to buy the ticket and board the train. Conversely make the offset too short and you risk letting people select a ticket that they are not going to have paid for, had printed, picked up from the bottom, and board before the train leaves (which may be the last/only one it is valid on).

From what I have seen these machines seem to be set to show trains scheduled to leave 5 minutes from now and later, which seems reasonable to me, but what do others think?
 

Bletchleyite

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From what I have seen these machines seem to be set to show trains scheduled to leave 5 minutes from now and later, which seems reasonable to me, but what do others think?
It needs to take into account delays. I can see the sense in not selling tickets for a train due to depart in, say, 2 minutes, to discourage people dangerously running for it or missing it and not understanding what to do. I can't see the sense, if say the 1000 is running 30 minutes late, in not selling a ticket for it at 1020, which is what is happening here.
 

CyrusWuff

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The upgraded machines have some sort of real-time information feed, so should be able to cope with such a scenario. I'm not sure what cut-off time applies, however...Though in the majority of cases, selecting the following train won't affect the price when you're purchasing on the day of travel, except when you're approaching the off-peak/peak boundary for the journey in question.

Not that that's obvious if you're not a regular traveller, of course.
 

Bletchleyite

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The upgraded machines have some sort of real-time information feed, so should be able to cope with such a scenario. I'm not sure what cut-off time applies, however...Though in the majority of cases, selecting the following train won't affect the price when you're purchasing on the day of travel, except when you're approaching the off-peak/peak boundary for the journey in question.

Not that that's obvious if you're not a regular traveller, of course.
Very true, but the trouble is that new users don't necessarily know that, and will just see that the machine won't sell them a ticket for the 10:00 that isn't going to be there for 10 minutes and moan about how silly it is.
 

js1000

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Brilliant they are. After being out of action most of yesterday our TVM was fixed at 8.30 today, after the busy commuter period. A user was puzzled booking the 9.21 and a small queue formed. After watching several attempts I had to agree that despite it by then being 9.19 it would only allow him a ticket on the 10.21. The train arrived. About 6 got on without buying tickets. The TVM was reported closed down again about 12.00!
Its set up to allow advance fares to be purchased, advance fares are a minimum of 15 minutes before the train so cant purchase a ticket for that train.

Yes its extra faff but the point is to allow the passenger the option of the cheapest fare rather than keeping it a online customer option.
That's just plain daft. Just adds another layer of needless complication.

One of the big mistakes the rail industry makes is that they automatically assume everyone uses the railways and uses it often enough that they completely understand the terminology, routes, ticket types, peak times, quirks etc. I think this problem is actually getting worse rather than simplifying it.

I know many prospective rail users who don't like/understand it and it's a real obstacle to getting people to use the train.
 

exesoundtech

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That's just plain daft. Just adds another layer of needless complication.

One of the big mistakes the rail industry makes is that they automatically assume everyone uses the railways and uses it often enough that they completely understand the terminology, routes, ticket types, peak times, quirks etc. I think this problem is actually getting worse rather than simplifying it.

I know many prospective rail users who don't like/understand it and it's a real obstacle to getting people to use the train.
I think the biggest challenge here, that everyone here realises, is that the fares structure itself is far too complex for pretty much anyone to truly understand.

This leaves a fundamental problem for a ticket machine: do you offer a simple range of tickets leaving passengers constantly wondering if they paid too much; or something that does try to offer the cheapest tickets, but at the price of speed? Remembering of course, that while someone may *think* they know what ticket they need, with complexities like AP on the day, and evening peak periods, there may in fact be a cheaper ticket to achieve the travel they wish to make...
 

Bletchleyite

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I think the journey planner is the way to go, the trouble is when you get a delayed train.

A solution to this might be a button saying "my train is delayed" which would then allow one to scroll back. It could also mean the ticket would be endorsed automatically so a fraudulent Delay Repay claim would be avoided.
 

sheff1

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I think the biggest challenge here, that everyone here realises, is that the fares structure itself is far too complex for pretty much anyone to truly understand.
For the Dore - Hathersage journey which triggered the lastest round of discussion, the structure is not complicated at all*:

Anytime Day Single
Anytime Day Return
Off Peak Day Return (valid after 0859)
No Advance fares at all

Who knows why some genius decided people seeking to purchase a return ticket after 0859 should be forced to select a train and then have the TVM not show the next departure time on the selection list ??

* Many other journeys are equally simple.
 

Killingworth

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For the Dore - Hathersage journey which triggered the lastest round of discussion, the structure is not complicated at all*:

Anytime Day Single
Anytime Day Return
Off Peak Day Return (valid after 0859)
No Advance fares at all

Who knows why some genius decided people seeking to purchase a return ticket after 0859 should be forced to select a train and then have the TVM not show the next departure time on the selection list ??

* Many other journeys are equally simple.
Yes, it is simple, or is it? I can sit at home and play with various websites to find my best priced and timed tickets. Only I'm delayed.

Now I can pop down to the station and play with the TVM all night - although not this evening because it had closed earlier today. Presumably it will be shut for tomorrow's commuters.

Advance fares for a journey from Sheffield - Manchester next Saturday show big differences between operators. Just see the variations. Here are the trains offered to me from 06.00 until 16.30 with the ticket types explained.

No other users were delayed by these inquiries, however I've seen some very confused people this week - although half of them probably only wanted to pick up tickets from a closed machine.
 

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Bantamzen

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I agree that Advances on short distance flows are silly, but there are benefits to a journey planner UI. It just doesn't seem outside the wit of man to have it interlinked with the PIS in some way so it will still sell a ticket for a train that hasn't departed yet.
In most cases I would agree, the problem is where do you cut off the availability of the approaching train? If you base it on the expected ETA, then this as we know can change. This is as we have seen on these forums a bit of a dark art sometimes, and so you risk even more confusion. If you base it on the block the train is in this might not take into account a delay prior to arrival at the platform (and not to mention those parts of the network where the PIS is not as reliable due to the nature of the signalling, Shipley - Guiseley - Burley-In-Wharfedale being one case in point). Of course for most of the time using the train data would be fine, but I would suggest that at least five minutes at the minimum should be the cut off from arrival.

I think the biggest challenge here, that everyone here realises, is that the fares structure itself is far too complex for pretty much anyone to truly understand.

This leaves a fundamental problem for a ticket machine: do you offer a simple range of tickets leaving passengers constantly wondering if they paid too much; or something that does try to offer the cheapest tickets, but at the price of speed? Remembering of course, that while someone may *think* they know what ticket they need, with complexities like AP on the day, and evening peak periods, there may in fact be a cheaper ticket to achieve the travel they wish to make...
This is indeed at the heart of the matter, the fares structure is simply way too complicated. Trying to design a UI that can not only offer commuters quick ticket / season / rover options, but also give passengers more choice, options to buy advances, reservations etc whilst keeping user interaction time down to a minimum can't be easy. Separating out the "quick" or "popular" menus at the splash screen seems the most obvious way, at least for seasoned travellers, but our network isn't just used by savvy passengers.

I know its been suggested already, but I can't help but feeling that the user of QR / Aztec codes or NFC tags for enabled mobile devices might be a way forward. For those passengers with enabled devices, they could order their tickets via the mobile app, then use a generated QR / Aztec code or NFC tag to trigger the printing of their tickets (assuming that they wish to have physical as opposed to electronic tickets). This way the TVM UIs would be used less & allow those using them more time to browse their options. Of course ideally e-ticketing would become the norm, but this would offer a halfway house for those unsure of using fully electronic ticketing.
 

DaveB10780

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The whole process of offering a pathetically small discount of 10p or so to encourage travel on a particular Northern or Transpennine train just so that they can avoid sharing the revenue is a travesty in its own right. Introducing a fundamentally inconvenient and unworkable ticket machine flow to support vending it is frankly toxic behaviour. The DfT may have specified a couple of unworkable franchises, but the companies running them seem keen to go the extra mile to make their passengers lives a complete misery.
And even if you buy the "cheaper" ticket then what happens if your return journey costs more than buying a normal return? As far as I can see the fundamental issue is that the latest updates seem to be aiming at the small minority rather than keeping it simple for most travellers. They just want a stress free journey and having issues even buying a ticket is awful.
 

Bletchleyite

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Yes, it is simple, or is it? I can sit at home and play with various websites to find my best priced and timed tickets. Only I'm delayed.

Now I can pop down to the station and play with the TVM all night - although not this evening because it had closed earlier today. Presumably it will be shut for tomorrow's commuters.

Advance fares for a journey from Sheffield - Manchester next Saturday show big differences between operators. Just see the variations. Here are the trains offered to me from 06.00 until 16.30 with the ticket types explained.

No other users were delayed by these inquiries, however I've seen some very confused people this week - although half of them probably only wanted to pick up tickets from a closed machine.
From a quick look at your screenshots (thanks!) it doesn't look a particularly confusing UI. Maybe it's just the mindset that needs to shift to get used to buying from a planner?
 

Killingworth

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From a quick look at your screenshots (thanks!) it doesn't look a particularly confusing UI. Maybe it's just the mindset that needs to shift to get used to buying from a planner?
It's the time it takes to buy a ticket when others also want to do so.

I want to go from A to B on day Y. What time do I have to be at destination? Simple? Not really.

As soon as we start adding in multiple train operators on slightly different routes, with multiple fare offerings at different times of the day it gets complicated. Seemingly there are 19 ticket options on the simple journey I used for illustration.
 

Bantamzen

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It's the time it takes to buy a ticket when others also want to do so.

I want to go from A to B on day Y. What time do I have to be at destination? Simple? Not really.

As soon as we start adding in multiple train operators on slightly different routes, with multiple fare offerings at different times of the day it gets complicated. Seemingly there are 19 ticket options on the simple journey I used for illustration.
Taking your earlier example, how many people would arrive at a station at 06:00 but not actually be planning on travelling on one of the next services available? Probably very few, if any. And even if there were people doing this, if you were unsure of your starting time and others were waiting to buy for the next service, surely you would just step aside and wait until everyone that needed an immediate ticket had done.

For someone just wanting the next train, those options you've listed do not seem too unreasonable & give options for cheaper services if you so wish.
 

Killingworth

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Taking your earlier example, how many people would arrive at a station at 06:00 but not actually be planning on travelling on one of the next services available? Probably very few, if any. And even if there were people doing this, if you were unsure of your starting time and others were waiting to buy for the next service, surely you would just step aside and wait until everyone that needed an immediate ticket had done.

For someone just wanting the next train, those options you've listed do not seem too unreasonable & give options for cheaper services if you so wish.
At Sheffield Station with multiple machines (not Northern) it may not be too bad. With only one machine observation suggests more are unable to get tickets due to confusion. Mind you, the machine has failed multiple times since the update so has been closed almost as long as it's been open.

However, previously we could only buy tickets for travel from the one station for travel on that day. Now we can buy tickets from anywhere to anywhere on any day. Using one's own device it doesn't matter how long it takes. Nobody else is delayed. Put all those options on the platform machine and it increases the average time per transaction.

There's plenty of precedent for that human response. The original bank ATMs only dispensed cash and could deal with over 150 transactions an hour. A modern machine would struggle to service half that number now there are other options added on.
 

Bantamzen

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At Sheffield Station with multiple machines (not Northern) it may not be too bad. With only one machine observation suggests more are unable to get tickets due to confusion. Mind you, the machine has failed multiple times since the update so has been closed almost as long as it's been open.

However, previously we could only buy tickets for travel from the one station for travel on that day. Now we can buy tickets from anywhere to anywhere on any day. Using one's own device it doesn't matter how long it takes. Nobody else is delayed. Put all those options on the platform machine and it increases the average time per transaction.

There's plenty of precedent for that human response. The original bank ATMs only dispensed cash and could deal with over 150 transactions an hour. A modern machine would struggle to service half that number now there are other options added on.
And this is why I suggest an option of being able to plan a journey on a mobile device, and then choose either to load an e-ticket directly onto said device, or generate a scannable QR/Aztec code or NFC tag where this available, which could then be used to instantly trigger the payment & printing of the tickets without the need for entering a TOD code by hand. This would offer passengers a choice of using the TVM to search and request for tickets, to use their mobile or home device to search for tickets & print them at the TVM quickly, or to simply use e-tickets. Hopefully this would minimise the need for too many passengers to spend a great deal of time searching for complex options.

Unfortunately the very nature of a UI is determined by the complexity of the user defined parameters, the more you have, the more complex it is to build one especially if you are trying to make it intuitive. Northern did start out with a fairly basic set of "favourite" options based (I assume) on data that particular TVM was given & gathered over time, and a slightly more complex search engine that really only offered a limited range of tickets. As seen on these forums, there was some criticism that these options were too limited, so they are now going for a bigger range of tickets, but this does mean that you lose some of the simplicity. Its a fine balance to say the least, and one that will never be to the approval of all.

Personally I see these software upgrades as a step towards encouraging more users to opt for e-ticketing, and I can foresee a time when it will be the default for passengers to order online and either print tickets at home or load them onto a mobile device, with TVMs & ticket offices more backups to these. It has certainly been used in the airline industry, and increasingly now with the bus industry too, so it really is only a matter of time before the TOCs / DfT follow suit.
 

Bletchleyite

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With regard to the thing about delayed trains, yesterday I was on the Marston Vale which was rather a mess, and decided, as I was bored, to buy an e-ticket. The Trainline app, notably, showed the delayed service until close to its actual departure time, but wouldn't let it be selected to buy a ticket for it. Obviously I picked the next one as it's just a CDS anyway, but if you didn't know that...
 

Killingworth

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With regard to the thing about delayed trains, yesterday I was on the Marston Vale which was rather a mess, and decided, as I was bored, to buy an e-ticket. The Trainline app, notably, showed the delayed service until close to its actual departure time, but wouldn't let it be selected to buy a ticket for it. Obviously I picked the next one as it's just a CDS anyway, but if you didn't know that...
Quite, a lot of travellers aren't regular users and if they're confused by ticket options and buying facilities they may be more reluctant to use trains more. I enjoy trying the various options, but my wife does not!
 

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