diamond geezer

 Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Tales from the New Overground

Not everyone is delighted that TfL have taken over their local train service. Take Hertfordshire resident DJ, for example. Here's a Twitter exchange he had with the former operator, Abellio Greater Anglia, last Wednesday.
@Dj85Dj12: @greateranglia what time is the 16:52 to Cheshunt due at LST? Is the line running with delays?
@greateranglia: @Dj85Dj12 Apologies this train has been cancelled due to a train fault. RS
@Dj85Dj12: @greateranglia what about the 17:22 to Cheshunt any assurances you can give me?
@greateranglia: @Dj85Dj12 That service is scheduled to run as planned. RS
@Dj85Dj12: @greateranglia thank you
Faulty trains have made the West Anglia lines notorious for delays and cancellations, and will continue to do so until new rolling stock starts to be introduced in a couple of years time. But on a line with half hour service intervals one cancellation can introduce a lengthy gap between trains, so it's just as well that Greater Anglia's social media team were on the ball with useful updates.

Click forward a week, and @greateranglia have now transferred responsibility to @LDNOverground. This was last night's conversation.
@Dj85Dj12: @LDNOverground what's happening with the 17:57 to Cheshunt? Waiting at Cambridge Heath
@LDNOverground: @Dj85Dj12 Hi, we're not informed of a specific train service. Only minor / severe delays or no service. Apologies.
@Paulo1986: @LDNOverground @Dj85Dj12 well how comes @greateranglia could give us that detail and you can't? #shambles
It's the same timetable, but a totally different approach to reporting on delays. While Greater Anglia were into specifics, because they ran a railway, TfL are only up for generalities, because they run a turn-up-and-go metro. And while that might work well on the Central line, where the trains run a few minutes apart, it's not quite so useful when they're only every 30. This is particularly the case at a station like Cambridge Heath which doesn't have the luxury of a Next Train Indicator. If the scheduled time has passed and no train is in sight, who you gonna call?

Now TfL do have a specific Cambridge Heath 'next trains' page on their website, if you can find it, which DJ may one day learn to use. Or he could get himself an app, because all this real time information is out there in the public domain where anyone can use it. And yes, there are folk waiting on provincial station platforms who don't even have a mobile signal, let alone a half-hourly service, so let's not get too carried away. But travellers on the West Anglia lines have just slipped into a world where a cancelled service is deemed no more than a minor delay, and those in charge of social media aren't allowed to say more. This Overground changeover is a useful reminder that TfL believe in blurry overviews rather than precise details, a fact which those of us inside the bubble often forget.

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