diamond geezer

 Saturday, July 07, 2012

When you arrive at the Jubilee line platforms at Stratford station, there are two questions you need answered.
1) Which platform is the next train going from?
2) Can I get there in time?
There are three platforms at this terminus: 15 and 14 to the left, and 13 to the right. Head the wrong way and the next train will leave without you. But each train is parked several seconds walk down the platform, so you might not reach train one in time, in which case you should have aimed for train two. In fact, as you approach, there's really only one question you need answered.
1) Left, or right?
The old signs were a bit small, but they did tell you. Next train Platform 13 →, or next train Platform 15 ←, whatever. Until recently an indicator at the near end of each platform told you how many minutes until departure (if 1 or more, walk, if less, run!), and which platform the next train was leaving from. It wasn't perfect, indeed it could have been much clearer, but it sort of worked.

Not any more. The TfL Signage Upgrade Unit have been along, and now we've got this.

Looks great doesn't it? Jam packed with lots of lovely information from top to bottom, it must, surely, be an improvement. But no. Because the new train indicator is far too complex, and is hard to read, and has been inexpertly located, and fails to answer the important question - left or right? Upgraded by cretins. Why aren't I surprised?

There's only one new board, and it's been angled to face the mainline station subway. For passengers arriving down the stairs, or from the adjacent DLR, it's surprisingly illegible without diverting across the concourse for a peek. Meanwhile the next train indicators on the platforms have been upgraded too, to the latest design, but shifted further down the platform. Better if you're standing by the train, but much further away if you haven't got there yet, and therefore no help at all in the early stages of deciding which way to go.

On the whopping new sign, the number of the next train's platform is hidden partway along the third line. All the text is tiny, because the indicator board is twelve lines deep. And when you have finally spotted "Plat 14", which way is that? A separate enamelled sign off to the right has the answer (14 15 ← 13 →). If you use the station regularly you'll have internalised this information. But infrequent travellers need to cross-check every time (Plat 14... aha... 14 ←) or else risk walking the wrong way.

The amount of information presented on the new board is entirely excessive. Passengers departing Stratford on the Jubilee line don't need to know the precise destination of the next eight trains. 99% don't give a damn whether the final destination's Stanmore, Willesden Green, Wembley Park or wherever, because they're not going that far. All the trains are going the same way, so catching the next service is all they need to do. Announcing details of the next two trains would be perfectly adequate, maybe three, but eight is utterly pointless overkill.

14 ←   1 min 
13 →   3 mins
This would do.
This, in very big text, would do just fine.
But instead we get information to excess
and all the useful stuff hidden within.

The sad thing is that Stratford is THE Olympic station, and the Jubilee is THE Olympic line. Years of careful coordinated planning have been undertaken to make Stratford the best connected, most accessible transport hub in the whole of East London. Some brilliant work has been done, linking umpteen platforms via additional subways. And then right at the end, a few weeks before the Games, some thoughtless team comes along and 'improves' the next train indicator system by making it worse. Cretins.

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