Week off (Tuesday): Rail ticket redesign
Yesterday, it being my Dad's birthday, I whizzed up to Norfolk for the day. A bit of judicious fare-fiddling allowed me to buy some ridiculously cheap rail tickets online, and I turned up at the station ready to retrieve. The first sign that something was different came when the ticket took a lot longer to print than usual. Normally the machine at Stratford station almost spits them out, but this time it was noticeably slower, with something automatic churning away inside. The rush hour queue behind me was also wondering what was going on, as I stood waiting for what seemed like a multiplicity of bits of card to appear, but was in reality only three. And when they finally dispensed, I finally twigged.
This is the new style National Rail ticket, revamped for the first time since the 1980s to show more detail. The main aim is to be 'simpler, easier and clearer', whilst simultaneously doing away with the need for an Advance ticket to be printed on two pieces of card. Well that was the plan. All the examples released during the consultation period looked swish and modern, whereas the reality requires the new design to be produced on ancient dot matrix technology, and it struggles to cope. With more dots to print each ticket takes longer to emerge. Multiply that by however many tickets are due to be produced, and some people are going to miss trains they'd previously have caught.
But my real concern is font size. Previously all the important information on the ticket would have been in large capitals, the same size as £9.00 on the ticket above. But now only the ticket type, endpoints and price are large, and everything else is half the size. My eyesight has yet to cross the middle age horizon, but even I found this harder to read, especially in the artificial glare of a gloomy platform. The date's small, the train details are small and the time's small, all of which are important when you're trying to convince yourself you're on the correct service. But what I had the most trouble with was the seat number - the final bit of data to doublecheck as I wobbled down the aisle towards wherever. Simpler and easier maybe, but smaller and less accessible too.