diamond geezer

 Friday, November 16, 2012

Tubewatch (45) Next-but-one train indicators
It wouldn't be tube week if I didn't sound off about Next Train Indicators. But this time not the fact that they're badly positioned. This time not that they're being replaced by inferior hard-to-read models. This time I want to whinge about the additional Next Train Indicators located in ticket halls. Because all too often they don't tell you what the next train is.

Here's the ticket hall at Mile End, with two small Next Train Indicators pinned up on the wall. If you stand here and watch them, left and right, they show the destinations of the next trains on the District/H&C and Central lines. But they only show these trains if they're two minutes away or more. Once the due time dips beneath two minutes they disappear off the list, as if to pretend these trains don't exist. For anyone down on the platform the Next Train Indicators are still ticking down "1 min" and then "stand back next train approaching". But someone at TfL HQ has deliberately programmed the ticket hall devices to conceal sub-2minute approaching trains, presumably for health and safety reasons. If the Next Train Indicators revealed that a train was only one minute away, they think we'd all run down the stairs and cause a nasty accident. But at Mile End it takes less than 30 seconds to walk down those stairs from the ticket hall to the platform. You'd have to have a serious mobility issue not to be able to get down those stairs in one minute, let alone two, so the two minute cut-off is essentially pointless. Indeed, many's the time I've checked the NTI and then walked down the stairs and straight onto a train which supposedly didn't exist. This is nannying, pure and simple, hiding useful information that we're not allowed to know.

And yet this rule isn't consistently maintained elsewhere. One stop up the line at Bow Road, the Next Train Indicator in the ticket hall mimics the Next Train Indicator on the platform. There's no two minute cut off here, even though the stairs are longer than at Mile End. If there's a train on the display when you arrive at the station, it might already have pulled into the platform and you've as good as missed it. And yet passengers don't all charge dangerously down the stairs just because there's a train one or zero minutes away. Bow Road users can be trusted to know this information without acting stupidly. There's trust too at Finchley Road station, where the upstairs Next Train Indicators faithfully record platform comings and goings in real time. But there's a cover-up at Euston and Holborn, in this case because it really is a long way to the platforms and you could never catch a one-minute-away train.

You've probably seen further examples of Next-But-One Train Indicators at other stations across London, although you may not have twigged they were hiding something from you, because not every station's the same. It would be nice if TfL could adopt a more consistent approach to how many minutes-away they're willing to tell you when you enter a ticket hall. And if someone could debug Mile End first, that would be great.

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