Tubewatch (33)Installed by short-sighted cretins It wouldn't be tube week if I didn't moan about the idiots who install 'next train indicators' on the London Underground. So let me do just that. And this time let me moan about a new type of next train indicator I haven't moaned about before - a squarish dot matrix unit packed with narrow horizontal lines where several next trains can be listed. These units are great when viewed up close, say in ticket halls, where you can easily check when the next service is about to rumble into the platform below. But they're rubbish when viewed from a distance, because the font size is far too small to read.
Here's a particularly atrocious example from Walthamstow Central. Sorry the photo's not in great focus, but you get the idea. We're at the end of the line, at the bottom of the main escalators, with a choice of two platforms. Is the first train to London leaving from the platform to the left or the platform to the right? It's important to know, otherwise you could be sitting on the wrong one while the other train departs. In the past, a big black lightbox sufficed. It lit up with an arrow to tell passengers whether to head left or right. Simple. Effective. Dead. The cretins have been along and switched it off, then installed one of their new square display units instead. It tells you where the next train on platform 1 is going (unsurprisingly, Brixton). It tells you where the next train on platform 2 is going (unsurprisingly, Brixton again). But it doesn't say when. The only useful information is the line at the bottom which reads either "Next train Platform 1" or "Next train Platform 2". Squint carefully, that tiny digit is your only clue. When you have the number you then need to work out which platform is which. A separate enamelled sign below shows platform 1 to the right and platform 2 to the left - which is the opposite way round to what you might expect. Then run for your train, because it might be leaving.
Previously, big letters, follow the arrow. Now, tiny letters, hunt the number, match the number to the platform, work out which way to go. Only an idiot could think that this super-technological solution was an improvement on the old. But then, as we all know, next train indicators are so often installed by cretins.