diamond geezer

 Friday, September 19, 2014

I don't know what happens when you go to the TfL website and check whether the tubes are working normally or not. This is what happens to me.

I get a list of tube lines on the left, as I should, and the usual map of the underground on the right. But disruptions to the network don't appear on the map, only a scattering of stations and some greyed out lines. And yet, as I write, there are currently severe delays on the Metropolitan line, and these should be appearing on the map but don't.

The Status Updates webpage used to work fine after TfL upgraded their website in March, and a purpled-out line would have appeared to show these delays between Wembley Park and Aldgate, But as of about a month ago I see no specific information on the map, only greyed out lines and an error message. And this happens all the time, no matter how disrupted (or not) the underground network might be.

It's the same for weekend engineering works. This weekend there are upgrade works on four lines, but again nothing appears on my map, just the same error message as before.

I wanted to check whether the problem was with TfL or with me, so I tried accessing the same page in another browser. At home I use Firefox but at work I use Internet Explorer and Chrome, so I hoped that viewing the map in a different browser might reveal the nature of the problem. But it just made things more confusing.
At home: (Firefox 32) No disruptions appear on map. Error message.
At work: (Internet Explorer 8) No map whatsoever. No error message.
At work: (Chrome 38) Map appears perfectly. No error message.
So in Chrome everything's fine, as I suspected, which means the map works perfectly for some. But in IE8 no status update map appears at all, instead everything underneath is shunted up to fill the white space. Now IE8 is a particularly ancient version of Internet Explorer, which I have to use at work because the IT department doesn't let us upgrade to anything better. So I'm not entirely surprised that TfL's coded map doesn't work in IE8, but what does surprise me is that they don't tell you this. I'd hope for a message that says something like "Hey, loser, your browser is rubbish so we don't support it. If you want to see the tube status map please update to something better." Instead TfL's digital team keep silent, and users have to cope with no graphic whatsoever, nor even a hint that something might have been deliberately hidden.

And what of me with Firefox 32? I'm using the latest version of the browser, with the latest Flash and Java updates, and I've not got any awkward add-ons lurking underneath. But for whatever reason the map still doesn't work, and what's more TfL's error message suggests the problem's only temporary.

I've been seeing this error message for over a month now, and as far as I can tell nobody at TfL is trying to fix anything. They're very proud of their tricksy adaptive coded tube map, but the truth is it's far too clever for a lot of users and simply doesn't work.

So I'd love to know what it is I'm doing wrong, or what functionality I might be lacking in Firefox, because I greatly miss being able to look at a simple tube map to see current and future travel disruption. Indeed trying to work out this weekend's Overground service pattern from 602 words of closely-packed text is nigh impossible in comparison.

And it'd be nice if TfL could operate a website that works for all, or at least almost all, rather than concealing important information when we don't meet their exacting standards.

Solution (thanks everybody!): My mistake had been to use https://www.tfl.gov.uk/tube-dlr-overground/status, whereas I should instead have been using http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tube-dlr-overground/status (with http: instead of https: in front). TfL's Status Updates webpage includes insecure content, which the secure version of Firefox blocks, and then an inappropriate TfL-generated error message appears. I'd never have thought of deleting the 's', but now I can see the map again. Still doesn't work in Internet Explorer, though.

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