RDG trial/Budget announcement: 26-30 Railcard from Spring 2018

Discussion in 'Fares Advice & Policy' started by mrmartin, 16 Sep 2017.

  1. matt

    matt Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Apparently if you log back into your account and go to manage railcard you should see a code. I don't, I just get error 500
     
  2. BigCj34

    BigCj34 Member

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    There's something not quite right when this railcard 10,000 railcards have been available to Greater Anglia residents for weeks, and then another 10,000 for the rest of the country to fight over. Thankfully I live in Greater Anglia so got mine at the first opportunity, but Greater Anglia residents have had an extraordinary advantage here.
     
  3. dvalts

    dvalts Member

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    This is what puzzles me as well, presumably they had enough data from this successful trial to extrapolate whether it would be successful nationally? Otherwise what was the point of the first trial.
     
  4. Class 172 Fan

    Class 172 Fan Member

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    Bloody farce. Hoped to get one to find it had sold out.

    Ah well, looks like I'll have to use Megabus instead of the railways for my next big trip. At least they are affordable!
     
  5. ainsworth74

    ainsworth74 Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I'm sure they know that it'll be a popular product. The "success" they're looking at is about how much revenue it may cost them. Hence the second larger trial area. Still utterly crackers the way they went about it though.
     
  6. Cletus

    Cletus Established Member

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    Well, count yourselves lucky that you are still under 30 :lol:
     
  7. Allwinter_Kit

    Allwinter_Kit Member

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    Surely the demand for these railcards, combined with the need for it in the first place (and the provision of other discount cards on the railway) prove that the fare structure, as it stands, is too expensive and suppressing demand?

    I mean, I get high peak time pricing (as rather than build for peak capacity like roads in rail we just price people off) but some of the off-peak prices, if not bought well in advance, are punitively expensive without a railcard.

    Shouldn't the fact that we are needing all these discounts make us rethink our current fares system?
     
  8. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    People are blaming the computer crash on ATOC etc. For once I disagree. It seems to me to be in the nature of computers that they are susceptible to technical glitches, regardless of who sets them up. Low Tec is far better for this customer at any rate.

    But it's true as you say, that we will get a choice - of what they want to sell us.
     
  9. Mojo

    Mojo Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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  10. Be3G

    Be3G Established Member

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    Speaking of which, have any of the other Anglian trialists been receiving and filling in the monthly e-mailed surveys about their use of the railcard? The survey is very clearly trying to gauge exactly that: the suppressed demand that the railcard might be unlocking. Indeed, for each of the three surveys I've filled in so far I've reported that I've made more off-peak leisure journeys by rail as a result of having the discount.
     
  11. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    I wonder if the data will also feed into the possibility of an actual National Railcard rather than just a millennial one?

    I still maintain that:
    a) I'd buy one even at a fee up to about £100
    b) It would cause my discretionary long distance rail travel to increase such that the railway would certainly be "quids in".
     
  12. Searle

    Searle Established Member

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  13. Qwerty133

    Qwerty133 Established Member

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    I hope ATOC can find a way to cancel the cards of people who used bots or otherwise circumvented manually waiting in the queue to obtain one.
     
  14. Coolzac

    Coolzac Member

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    Given that they can't predict or cope the most obvious increase in demand which renders their website nearly useless, I would say not!
     
  15. Ianno87

    Ianno87 Established Member

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    I've not been recieving them.
     
  16. Muzer

    Muzer Established Member

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    Rubbish. It's simply that enough capacity wasn't provided. Your statement is like trying to fit 36tph in both directions on a single track line and then saying "it seems that it's in the nature of railways that there are always delays, no matter who designed them". Yes, there are always going to be small glitches with computer software since it's such a complex thing It's almost impossible to get everything perfect (just as there are plenty of glitches when humans try to deal with railfares since they're so complicated...), but using that as an excuse for what is blatantly an issue of capacity is just rubbish. Computers are not magic.
     
  17. ainsworth74

    ainsworth74 Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I tried that myself several times last night but sadly had the same issue. Managed to log on and see I had a railcard but couldn't access any other part of the website. Thankfully an email came through this morning with the download code (around sixteen hours after purchase rather than two!!!) :D
     
  18. matt

    matt Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I got the code in the end by logging in to the 16 to 15 part of the website. Just had the email come through.
     
  19. WelshBluebird

    WelshBluebird Established Member

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    Finally managed to get one at around 5pm just through hammering the refresh button on my phone while travelling to watch football! Feel sorry for those who had tried thoughout the day and didn't manage to get through to the site though.

    To be fair, there wasn't a queue at all! It just seemed pot luck if you go through or not. Obviously their web server just couldn't handle the load so it was just luck if you managed to attempt to load the site at the exact right time someone else had left (so there was a little bit of capacity for it to deal with your request).

    And that is partly why it was so poor. Even if you can't be bothered to actually make sure your site has the capacity to cope, there are services that you can use that sit infront of your side and act like an actual queue.

    Nope sorry I can't agree with that. Without saying too much, part of my job is dealing with websites and making sure they stay up, especially under high load.

    There are so many ways RDG / ATOC could have avoided yesterdays chaos. As I said above, even just putting a queuing service infront of the site would have been better than doing nothing. Of course they could also have added more servers. I don't know the actual infrastructure they run on, but even physical servers can be set up under a load balancer in a matter of days (and if they are running things in the cloud, then that would have been less than hours!). This wasn't unexpected high traffic. This was something that was incredibly predictable and to be blunt, damn obvious to anyone who was paying attention.

    As someone in the industry - to mess up so badly when you knew the traffic was coming (and that the traffic was your own fault by doing such a stupid roll out) - there is zero defence. Now granted, yes you have glitches, or mistakes by people (again can't say too much, but you get things like people forgetting to pay server bills etc) or have things you didn't know about or that you couldn't predict (massive amounts of traffic with no notice beforehand will kill nearly any site). But when you know it is going to happen? Na, RDG / ATOC and the tech team behind the site deserve every bit of criticism they get because of it.
     
  20. ForTheLoveOf

    ForTheLoveOf Established Member

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    I agree that their handling of the demand was exceedingly poor. However, in their defence, they were not perhaps expecting the media to pick up on the story as much as ended up happening. The articles were at the top of most news channels for half a day or so - not exactly as low-key as they might have hoped/expected.
     
  21. Ianno87

    Ianno87 Established Member

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    Agree; perhaps they genuinely didn't expect such a high demand? The launch to sale of the Anglia trial was fairly 'soft' and probably gave them some (in hindsight) false comfort.
     
  22. WelshBluebird

    WelshBluebird Established Member

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    Seriously? I just cannot believe that. Maybe it is because I am in the age bracket and travel a lot, but in my eyes it was totally obvious that it would be high demand for it.

    Of course the East Anglia launch didn't get the same attention - because it was such a small part of the country!

    The government even used this to try to claim they are doing something for people in the age bracket in the budget last year, so if RDG / ATOC did genuinely not realise what demand would be - well that is pure and utter incompetence.
     
  23. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Poppycock. As a member of this forum, you will know that railways, like all forms of transport, are subject to delays. It's the nature of the beast.

    With ticketing, we have a way around the inevitable bottleneck that will be caused by over-reliance on a website, and that is to use the perfectly good network of ticket offices around the country.
     
  24. takno

    takno Established Member

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    There's always somebody who's done some scaling work somewhere who is willing to pronounce judgement without any understanding of the system they are talking about. It's a real problem in the tech industry that everybody seems to think everybody else is an idiot.

    Whether they could just spin up more servers, inside the cloud or out of it, is extremely architecture-dependant. It sounds like the basic website mostly stayed up just fine, so the basic mitigations you are suggesting were probably either in place or would not have been that useful. The actual transaction engine was the thing that was on a go-slow, and that's likely to be the hardest element to scale. If the site was built to handle 12x normal volumes in the first place it would probably have been judged too expensive and a cheaper version insisted on, and scaling it could comfortably have taken a month or two.

    I would guess that instead of a month or two tech team were given very little more notice of this as the rest of us, with a back-of-the-envelope calculation that said something like "load might be double". They probably didn't see the media plan and didn't necessarily know that anybody was going to publicise the 10k limit and create a rush in the morning.

    Added to this, if the transaction engine was scaled it will have been done by sharing a minimal amount of state. That would normally work quite well because various cards haven't got much to do with each other, but suddenly there was a new requirement - the 10k quota. Checking and updating a single counter isn't on the face of it a difficult thing to do, but if the requirement is presented the week before and you don't have a lot of resource then there is essentially a zero chance of doing any load testing on the solution. If a keen junior had chosen the wrong way to do it (row count on a poorly indexed table for example), then that alone could make the whole site fall apart.

    Finally, it would hardly be the first time in history when a marketing team have been delighted to see a transaction system go down. The fact of the matter is that most people weren't on the site on the day trying it anyway, so the number of people affected was somewhat limited. The press meanwhile will largely take it as a sign of product popularity rather than incompetence, so you get some great coverage out of it.
     
  25. _toommm_

    _toommm_ Member

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    Good luck with the digital railcards and the codes - for the first three weeks of my digital 16-25 railcard it showed as expired and didn't have a photo, thus rendering it unusable. Let's hope these problems don't extend to the 26-30 one either
     
  26. WelshBluebird

    WelshBluebird Established Member

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    So maybe they should have put a queuing system infront of the site then?

    Btw - I am not blaming the technical team. They probably hand their hands tied with budgets and timelines, and possibly don't even have an understanding / care about the industry itself. Certainly I've worked on projects where I have been pretty removed from the actual business side of it.

    And I am also not saying I (or the company I work for) could have done better. You are right, we don't know the architecture, or the specifics how how the system works etc.

    But what I am doing is blaming RDG / ATOC for this mess and saying they should have planned better. Both in terms of the actual rollout and in terms of how they expected the site to handle it. There is just no defence for your site showing a 503 error message these days when you KNOW that demand is coming.

    And if they did genuinely not anticipate the demand - then that is nothing to do with the technical side of it. That is pure incompetence from the business side.

    And about the media and taking it "as a sign of product popularity", you are right. And that makes me sad. An organisation messing up like they did should NOT be seen in a good light. Hell even music ticketing sites have sorted their game out now. If you are going to insist on a roll out plan that will lead to high demand, then at least make sure you have planned for it!
     
  27. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    I think they caused the problem by putting a numbers cap on it. If they had instead said you could purchase one for two days, some people would have avoided the rush by purchasing overnight etc.

    FWIW this issue occurs in many places where you'd think it wouldn't - See Tickets is notably bad, while Ticketmaster does have a proper queueing system.

    Some very much have not. The presence of a very effective queueing and ticket holding system is why, if it's an option, I always use Ticketmaster.
     
  28. WelshBluebird

    WelshBluebird Established Member

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    The reason I actually mentioned that is because at least recently, See Tickets have been really good for me. Even gigs that had a large demand, their queuing system worked flawlessly. I know in the past they were awful for it, but I've not had issues with them in a long time now.

    But agreed on them making a rod for their own back with the rollout plan.
     
  29. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Sounds like they have perhaps solved it - what that does highlight is just how one bad experience (well, it's been a couple, as the occasional gig doesn't sell via Ticketmaster) can lose you a customer for good if they find another supplier they are happy with. They don't come back then, and similarly I won't come back to See unless they do something amazing to attract me back now.
     
  30. Clip

    Clip On Moderation

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    And they wouldve paid for the queuing system to be part of their website sales portal as it will be used frequently - seems a waste of money to have it for a one time only launch of a product in my eyes
     

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