Over reliance on Real Time Trains and other data sources

Discussion in 'Allocations, Diagrams & Timetables' started by theironroad, 15 Apr 2019.

  1. theironroad

    theironroad Established Member

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    At the outset, I'll say that the listings provided by Real Time Trains, Open Train Times, Traksy etc are all a great and useful addition to real time info and are often used by rail staff as well as enthusiasts and the public.

    However, I'm beginning to wonder if there is an over reliance on these sources especially when it effects the choices people make.

    The data that powers these tools is open source data provided by network rail, but it is not fail safe.

    There have been times where the data displayed on maps or listings is historically dated, a train may be showing at station A when in fact the train is now further down the line at station D, lulling people into a false sense that they may have more to to get their train etc.

    Trains do run on the network at times (usually disruption) which may not be showing in the open source data, it is not safe to rely on these data sources to make potentially life threatening decisions.

    In a couple of threads on here, (the girl killed at a foot crossing and the French cycle race and level crossings), people have suggested that RTT should be used or that RTT doesn't show any train running. These comments are from people using this site, who in general have a better knowledge of how the rail network runs.

    Some station staff report that platform information shown on RTT isn't always accurate and people over rely on it. Platform alterations do happen at last minute and don't always reflect in RTT etc.

    Having the data available is great and the sites showing it are great, but maybe there needs to be some stronger warnings on the sites themselves as to their limitations. I don't mean hidden away in small print, but in banner style red print on the pages showing the results.
     
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  3. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    I think with RTT you do need to understand what you are reading and how it got there - it is an expert's tool, not a mainstream tool. It's used unofficially by quite a lot of staff.

    Once you do, it is extremely useful.
     
  4. samuelmorris

    samuelmorris Established Member

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    I would never use RTT for something safety critical like 'am I going to get run over by a train?' - common sense would dictate I wouldn't be anywhere where that could even be a question to ask. Nor do I rely on it as gospel for what's happening, it needs to be applied with a bit of 'railway sense'. Arguably, anyone that thinks to use RTT probably has such knowledge. e.g. if a train is showing on time, but the previous run isn't reporting anything, odds are good the service will still be delayed/cancelled. I have used this to good effect several times, when I can see the inbound working of a service isn't moving, I move to the next available train instead which, sure enough, is the first one to turn up, long before the cancellation is announced.

    Frankly I think it sets an unfortunate precedent if we need to start printing 'not to be used for safety critical purposes' on websites. Where does it stop? Big red banners in the window of every starbucks saying 'not for planning acts of terror'?
     
  5. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    This is a very good point. The only thing non-staff need to know about railway safety is "you must only ever be in public areas", to follow staff directions and basics about how to use level crossings (always respect any signals and look both ways if an uncontrolled crossing).

    That said, just in terms of not annoying people it might be worth a note about how it should be used as an expert's tool.
     
  6. HotelNovember

    HotelNovember Member

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    I don’t mind RTT but using it for when there is disruption and cancellations is a no-no for me. It can’t be relied upon.

    Anything fed by Darwin ie: NRE and NRE app will always (99% i’d say) be the “truth” as it’s directly linked into JourneyCheck, CIS, and Tyrell, which TOC staff use to issue delays and cancellations, especially in terms of train delays reasons, as TOC’s now must enter delay reasons to any late running train (over 10 mins for example) as part of the PIDD process.

    For example, I’ve seen trains not cancelled off on RTT hours (as this relies on it being cancelled in Trust) after the cancellation, yet has been transmitted to JourneyCheck, LDB, NRE app, and CIS instantaneously
     
  7. HOOVER29

    HOOVER29 Member

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    However did we manage 15-20 years ago??
    There’s information aplenty available to anyone following the railways today. It’s come on a long way since the days when I started on either Derby watching class 45/46/47’s & the sort passing through on anything and everything or Nuneaton watching class 25’s in the sidings where platforms 6 & 7 are now to the 81/87 electrics hammering through on expresses and freights armed with my spotters companion a pen and pad and my Adidas red bag. No phones in those days. Nowadays the rucksack is packed as is the iPhone with everything from cif-parser to Realtime trains and emails to text messages.
    Every now and then though I just head off somewhere lineside, camera in hand and my old Nokia 8210 just for calls and wait just to see what turns up just like the old days.
    Brings back the memories and if something does turn up then happy days.
    Sometimes think there is just a bit too much info.
    Nothing will rake my back up more than someone telling me at a station that such and such is working this today and blah blah is working up from Felixstowe later.
    Which is why I won’t visit Nuneaton hardly anymore besides it’s rubbish for photography now and I only visit Tamworth once in a blue moon and at Stafford there are too many who think they own the place.
    I used to think that anyone who stood on a bridge in the middle of nowhere taking photos was sad but now that’s what floats my boat.
     
  8. PHILIPE

    PHILIPE Established Member

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  9. unlevel42

    unlevel42 Member

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    This is not a criticism of RTT, it is an example of how a user can be fooled by circumstances and their own stupidity.
    The first time I used RTT 'live' on my laptop was on a journey from Oxford to Derby.
    I noted the arrival and connection platforms at New Street, packed up and on arrival proceeded to be a smart **** by walking to the platform indicated.
    It did not register at first but I felt a little uneasy but nevertheless continued to the platform indicated.
    No one on the platform and no train departing anywhere.
    Returning to sanity I eventually found the train. It was actually departing from the platform I thought I had arrived at.
    BOTH trains had been redirected! I had an Advance ticket- I'm glad I didn't need to explain that one if I had missed that one.

    A week later, same journey I asked the despatcher and recently arrived guard if the train we were standing next to was going to Derby. It was and everyone crowded on. Except for the ones who observed the "Not to be moved" sign revealed as the crowd dispersed. The driver gave the definitive advice "It's ********". Always ask the driver.
     
  10. Spartacus

    Spartacus Established Member

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    It's probably been the same since man invented the abacus, certainly calculator. Some people will believe whatever result comes out, no matter what, without engaging what's between their ears.
     
  11. noddingdonkey

    noddingdonkey Member

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    On the other hand, using traksy during widespread signal failure (lightning at York iirc) meant that I was better informed than station staff at Huddersfield who were announcing a total lack of services towards Manchester.

    They were still making this claim when NRE showed that a service had departed Leeds and when traksy showed it in the platform at Dewsbury.

    I eventually asked a member of platform staff, quoting the headcode (phrased as "is this info online wrong" rather than being too cocky) and he went off to check. Suddenly they started announcing this service.

    So it can go either way
     
  12. PeterY

    PeterY Member

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    I don't own a smart phone. If I'm out and about on my bike, (Hertfordshire area) nothing more pleasurable than standing on a station, especially Berkhamsted and just watching whatever passes though for about 15 minutes or so. Other than the stopping trains, which are on the PIS board.
     
  13. jon0844

    jon0844 Veteran Member

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    The disruption due to the OHLE issue in Hornsey on Sunday was a good example as GTR enabled disruption mode that only shows 100% confirmed movements.

    This would be to give staff more time to deal with other things and not issue incorrect information.

    But many apps showed trains as on time because of the reasons explained above far better than me repeating them badly here.

    For 2-3 hours there was barely anything moving, but I suspect many people were moaning at staff about trains they were sure were just fine - and demanding to know where they were.

    I also think that being misinformed doesn't help people make decisions or take advice. For a while the clear advice was if you can avoid travel, do so. Go home, come back later etc.

    But people didn't abandon their journey if they were sure staff didn't have a clue and trains were going to run in a few minutes...

    Perhaps these normally excellent apps need to be set up to detect when there's major disruption and trigger a flag to say that information at this time may not be accurate?
     
  14. 221129

    221129 Established Member

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    The amount of times I have passengers come up to me having a go because the train line app said it was this platform only for it to have been changed in the daily alterations..
     
  15. noddingdonkey

    noddingdonkey Member

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    That perhaps is a different case, the Trainline app is meant for the average passenger so probably should have more obvious caveats than RTT and other systems meant for people who know a little context.
     
  16. 43096

    43096 Established Member

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    I disagree. In times of disruption, the likes of RTT and the maps on OTT are invaluable to knowing what is really happening. TOC issued information is invariably either wrong or too vague - just leaving PIS screens showing the next three trains as “Delayed” is utterly useless information.
     
  17. jon0844

    jon0844 Veteran Member

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    Showing where the train is would be useful in such instances. South Eastern have it, but it was a major job and isn't a quick software update I'm told. Apps will help by letting you know if that 'delayed' train has even started, or is actually just one station away.

    The problem is when apps are showing timetabled information and appearing to be fine, but aren't.

    Swings and roundabouts.

    Bear in mind that many people are recommended on social media to use apps they wouldn't ordinarily stumble upon.
     
  18. DanTrain

    DanTrain Member

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    I had an issue a while ago when Google said a train was delayed by 30 mins. Got the the station on time and station boards said it was on time...and indeed it was. No idea what caused that but it'd be easy to turn up 10 mins after departure time thinking 'oh well its 30 mins late' and then miss it! As the OP says these things are useful but hardly failsafe!
     
  19. Muzer

    Muzer Established Member

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    Darwin (feeding most of the "official" information these days) contains some good information, but it's also not infrequently wrong. I've seen it advertise trains at the wrong platform, right up to the departure. I've seen it show a train as cancelled when it isn't, and get "stuck" showing trains hours earlier in the day that haven't left yet and clearly aren't going to run. If ATOC allowed Darwin data to be used alongside other data sources, we wouldn't have this problem of which one to trust as platforms like RTT would just be allowed to show both. But because of ATOC's nonsense insistence on Darwin being the "one true source" (even when it's wrong) that you either use for 100% of your data or don't use at all, this can't happen.

    But on the other hand, of course, the data used by RTT and similar sites is necessarily limited by what is available under more permissive/less insane open data licences. So RTT does necessarily miss some data (especially cancellation data), or at least receive it much more slowly.

    Personally I find the best thing to be combining RTT with Railcam or OpenTrainTimes maps, with perhaps occasional use of JourneyCheck etc. to check for short formations or short notice diversions. But obviously non-enthusiasts can hardly be expected to do this.
     
  20. Frontera2

    Frontera2 Member

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    It was a major job but as we funded a lot of the development, it’s a lot easier for other Worldline TOCs to take it now.

    We’ve recently enhanced it further by, at origin stations, telling you where the inbound train is.

    Another enhancement in the pipeline is to tell passengers when the inward ECS hasn’t left the depot and where that depot is eg “The inbound train to form this service has not yet departed the depot at Dartford”

    This enhancement was a game changer for us as it means passengers can now trust the information they are seeing. If the train is expected in 5 minutes and we’re telling you that it’s between x and y stations, you’re much more likely to believe it.
     
  21. Tom

    Tom Member

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    For my part, I'm very unhappy about how RTT is restricted in what it can show in disruption conditions, but National Rail Enquiries and RDG continue to apply daft restrictions in their data licence which inhibits RTT from doing its own forward forecasting. Some select parties are allowed to ignore some of the licence restrictions including the one around forecasting which makes it even more ludicrous - and I heard this from someone at RDG in January. I have yet to have an answer on this subject as to why they're allowing a privileged few that ability.

    I have become increasingly tempted to just completely ignore that licence condition and put Darwin based cancellations in the service. However, there is a practical issue in doing this: there are occasions where TRUST is right and Darwin is wrong. Some more so than others when it comes to certain operators. So where is the right balance? NRE have also in the past asked me to just use their forecasts and do mine internally - but what's the point when I know a forecast may be wrong and am inhibited from showing what I know to be closer to reality? I still won't then be allowed to use Darwin upstream sources if I am showing more correct data if I hold to the legal letter.

    There are other interesting examples of TOC interaction with Darwin. During the GWR West of England diversions, SWR were operating a substantially altered service with some shuttle services between Exeter and Axminster cancelled. Some days these services were still showing and I asked SWR as to whether they were going to operate (they were in the public timetable on the day) - their response was to delete the train. That in itself then leads to misleading information for people who have looked earlier in a day.
     

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