The question shouldn't be "what benefit does a unit number have?", the question should be "what benefit can a unit number bring?".Very sensible approach imo. I have had a play with the Scotrail information and I like the graphical representation and the further information about on board facilities. I remain to be convinced what benefit unit numbers have for the man in the street. I can see some interest in number of carriages IF you have a choice of peak time journeys. However, I think of my mum or my gf. Would that information ( about number or even carriages) enrich their journey home?
Simply put, a unit number is the starting point for a lot of train borne information that is on the site right now, such as number of coaches, visual representations of the set, facilities information, etc. The unit number is not useful to a lot of people, but it unlocks doors. The reality of the situation is that the industry are frankly useless at doing anything that benefits the passenger in a 'public' way and the level of detail out of systems like Darwin at the moment is limited to "number of coaches" and maybe passenger load. Some CIS systems have details of facilities on board which you can see via Tiger but that is not exactly aimed at your average commuter. There are other things coming in this area for RTT that I'm working on with the participating TOCs but this is probably a little longer off.
My personal view, without an enthusiast hat on, is that on my local line on journeys to London I will go for 442s or 444s and actively avoid 450s. I am not alone in that consideration. I don't need to know the numbers of the units on that service but an abstraction of that information /is/ useful - I can avoid what used to be the blue trains. Using existing industry systems, I would have to just 'know' that I need to avoid trains with a coach length of a multiple of 4, or certain parts of 9 coach trains.
Realtime Trains is in a unique position in that it caters fairly well for multiple segments - commuters, leisure travellers, power 'normal' users and enthusiasts (and this forum is obviously in this category). This forum talks about a very segmented part of that and many people don't appear to realise that most of the work I do isn't intended to solely benefit enthusiasts. I may add components which do provide a benefit in utility to those users but I haven't launched anything directly aimed at enthusiasts really in a few years. The allocations piece is the exception that proves the rule for GBRf/Caledonian Sleeper - but I did know the ScotRail thing was coming at that time... it was deliberately staggered to cause maximum impact.
I have received messages from people I know to not be enthusiasts who have found the ScotRail level data in the simple version of the site useful, and that is ultimately where I was targeting it. Unit numbers are great for getting to that level of information and, after all, why is it sensitive? It's a painted number on the side of a metal vehicle that I can go and see with my eyeball. It's not as if I'm asking for the sales data for all tickets out of London Euston on a given day...which would be very sensitive!
You may not but some people will if it's something like their last one for sight/bash. The number isn't necessary in my eyes right now.I wouldn't take unnecessary journey any way whether shown unit allocation or not. I think there are lot of people who'd like to know unit allocation for particular or any service of a TOC or an area. I mean an innocent reason to know of course )))
It would be well satisfactory to have a source of the information for them.