diamond geezer

 Monday, June 25, 2012

We've long known that the Next Train Indicators at tube stations are sometimes installed by cretins. Hidden in recesses, blocked by signage, made semi-illegible by security cameras, that sort of thing. But now there's a new type of hopelessness on the Victoria line, as TfL replace existing Next Train Indicators with new ones, and somehow make things worse.

They're more modern, that's for sure. The backgrounds are more black, and the text is more brightly orange, which ought to make things easier to read. But only from close up. Because, alas, the new Next Train Indicators are smaller than those they replace, and the letters are significantly narrower, which makes them much harder to read from further away.

My camera doesn't do these signs justice. They're not as blurry and diffuse as these photos suggest, at least not from nearby. But walk further down the platform and the bright orange letters quickly merge, depending on how good or bad your eyesight is, until before long you're staring at an indistinct fuzzy mass of orange. My eyesight's fine, but I was having much more trouble than expected, reduced to deducing the next destination by the general shape of the words. "Walthamstow Central" looks very different to "Seven Sisters", and "Brixton" could only be Brixton, so I could generally work out where the next train was heading. But as for the number of minutes, if that was anything above "1" then from partway down the platform I was stumped. It's just as well that trains run so frequently on the Victoria line that needing to know how long to wait isn't usually a problem.

We're currently mid-rollout of these new narrower Next Train Indicators on the Victoria line. Vauxhall's got them, one on each platform, with the northbound display half-blocked by an accessibility sign and a camera. Pimlico's got them, though not close enough to the platform entrance, and one isn't yet operational. There are two more at Brixton, both currently blank, presumably awaiting their initial switch-on. King's Cross St Pancras has two on each platform, wider than at Vauxhall but less deep, still with their plastic wrappers intact. And Highbury and Islington has a pair too, already up and running, but far enough from the platform entrance that anyone with less than perfect eyesight will struggle to read them.

Not being a regular user of the Victoria line it's hard to tell if these new Next Train Indicators have been positioned better than those they replace. Those carrying out the installation might well have tried more carefully than before to avoid aerial sightline blockages - I'd like to think so. But it's an astonishingly retrograde step to introduce displays with narrower text, much harder to read, merging at distance to form an indistinct orange blur. The new Next Train Indicators on the Victoria line - requisitioned by cretins.

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