diamond geezer

 Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Tube geek (18) We apologise for the delay
District Line: Minor delays are occurring due to an earlier faulty track at Ealing Common and late finish of engineering work at Upney
The tube doesn't always run smoothly. Sometimes trains break down, sometimes signals fail, and sometimes unhappy men hurl themselves headlong onto the tracks. And problems create delays. Transport for London have got much better at informing the travelling public about these delays, now with whiteboards at most station entrances and a webpage where you can keep track of every underground annoyance. And what a lot of delays there are.

Or are there? I thought I'd check just how delayed the Underground is. I've been keeping track of the state of the network at 7:30 every morning since the start of September, noting down every reported incident and the extent of the disruption. That's nearly two months of data across 12 different lines, snapshotted at the start of every morning rush-hour. And here's what I've discovered...

1) Number of disruptions
• Over 37 mornings, there were 57 separate disruptive incidents. That's an average of 1½ incidents every morning.
• Out of 37 mornings, only 7 had no disruptions anywhere on the network. That's roughly one hassle-free morning each week.

2) Severity of disruptions
• Only 12 of the disruptions (21%) involved the suspension of services. That equates to roughly one suspension every three days.
• Just 15 of the disruptions (26%) were described as "severe delays" (involving "significantly increased journey time").
• The other 30 disruptions (more than half of the total) were only "minor delays". A pain, but nothing terrible.

3) Causes of disruption
• 32 of the disruptions were caused by "signal failure". That's more than half of all delays caused by malfunctioning electrics and dodgy points.
• Just over 10% of disruptions were caused by faulty trains, and a similar number by the "late finishing of engineering work".
• Other disruptions included "faulty communications equipment", "faulty track", "fire alert", "obstruction on the track", "non-availability of staff", "police investigation" and "passenger taken ill on a train". None of these delays occurred more than twice over a two month period.

4) Lines disrupted
District 12 times, Piccadilly 7, Metropolitan 7, Circle 6, Hammersmith & City 5, Bakerloo 5, Northern 5, Central 4, Victoria 3, Waterloo & City 2, Jubilee 1, East London 0
• The District line is by far the most disrupted - on average almost twice a week. Other lines average no more than one disruption a week, with the East London line recently achieving early morning perfection.

Conclusion: Tube disruption isn't as bad as I thought it was. Not at half past seven in the morning, anyway. And before you wonder quite how sad I must have been to collect all this information, don't worry, I got Transport for London to send it to me. I've subscribed to their Alerts service, which updates me regularly with all the disruptions along my daily commute. TfL send me a personalised travel alert in an email at 7:30 every morning (just before I leave for work) and then a text message summary on my mobile in the afternoon (just before I head home). The service is extremely useful, it's very flexible, it's free, and you can opt out at any time. If you're interested you can read the FAQ here, or just sign up here. Don't delay.

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