Fare Dealer

RAIL fares ex­pert Barry Doe says there is still a need for printed timeta­bles.

Rail (UK) - - Contents -

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OPEN Ac­cess in RAIL 823 was one of those is­sues where I agreed with many of the points raised by read­ers - none more so than that of David Stokes, lament­ing the demise of West York­shire’s Metro rail timetable book.

Those of us who reg­u­larly use printed timeta­bles have a con­stant bat­tle with rail and bus op­er­a­tors and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, many of whom tell us that since the ad­vent of the in­ter­net printed pub­lic­ity is no longer re­quired.

They usu­ally quote true sta­tis­tics - that a large ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion possesses a PC, smart­phone or both. And so the hard bit is try­ing to ex­plain to them that that’s ir­rel­e­vant.

Rail jour­ney plan­ners are ex­cel­lent and I of­ten use the likes of www.fastjp.com. It is fast, use­ful, and has far more op­tions than the poorqual­ity plan­ners of­fered by the op­er­a­tors them­selves. I also use the Na­tional Rail Timetable (NRT) on­line, print­ing off pages from one of the ta­bles so that I can have them in A4 size to take on a jour­ney.

All th­ese are su­perb aids that I wouldn’t want to be with­out - but none re­places a printed timetable book. It’s not be­ing old-fash­ioned - it’s us­ing some­thing that has never been su­per­seded in its use­ful­ness.

Let me quote an ex­am­ple from my own Bournemouth Trans­port (Yel­low Buses). YB had a timetable book which was abol­ished in favour of small book­lets that were not even put on the bus, as I was told “peo­ple will take them” (sic) and that the fu­ture is on­line and quite soon timeta­bles can be abol­ished.

Re­cently a new man­ager ar­rived. He told me he to­tally dis­agreed with this, and that he would rein­tro­duce a sin­gle book, im­prove its qual­ity, add far bet­ter maps and dis­trib­ute it in large num­bers on buses. Like me he’s a PC and smart­phone user, but agrees that a printed book is some­thing all users re­quire.

If you’re out for the day a book al­lows you to plan or change your mind and check times far more read­ily and speed­ily than look­ing it up on a Smart­phone. The brain can also as­sim­i­late a vast quan­tity of in­for­ma­tion such as stan­dard pat­terns at a glance - we of­ten for­get it acts far faster than a PC.

Some lo­cal au­thor­i­ties sim­i­larly see a need

and pro­duce ex­cel­lent timeta­bles: Der­byshire, Devon and Here­ford­shire spring to mind, plus some smaller uni­tary au­thor­i­ties such as Mil­ton Keynes, West Berk­shire and Wok­ing­ham (to men­tion only Eng­land).

How­ever, their num­bers are dwin­dling. Many are giv­ing up on the spu­ri­ous grounds of ‘the in­ter­net’, whereas in truth they’re giv­ing up ow­ing to bud­get cuts, or merely their own ap­a­thy.

Sadly, the rail in­dus­try is no bet­ter. Chiltern Rail­ways, Great Western Railway, South West Trains, Vir­gin Trains and Vir­gin Trains East Coast pub­lish good books, but what of a ma­jor tourist area such as Scot­land, which cries out for a sin­gle rail timetable from ScotRail?

As our reader rightly points out, it would have been OK if North­ern had taken over the Metro book, but to sim­ply carry on with its 19 in­di­vid­ual book­lets in­stead is an in­sult to users. All com­pos­ite ta­bles have van­ished as a re­sult.

And it’s worse in Lon­don, where Lon­don Un­der­ground now pub­lishes noth­ing (it has even given up the Metropoli­tan Line book). Lon­don Over­ground and TfL Rail also print noth­ing - the lat­ter means Cross­rail won’t.

I took up the Over­ground case with the Rail De­liv­ery Group (RDG), as I un­der­stood that a Na­tional Rail op­er­a­tor was obliged to pro­duce some form of timetable. I was wrong - they can do as they wish. Isn’t it ap­palling?

In­ci­den­tally, the ex­cel­lent South West Trains book isn’t be­ing pro­duced this May. It has noth­ing to do with the fran­chise change ( RAIL 824), as the de­ci­sion had been taken ear­lier. Ad­mit­tedly the pocket timetable book­lets are high qual­ity and will in­cor­po­rate all the bus link ta­bles that were pre­vi­ously in the sin­gle book, but I fre­quently took the book on jour­neys and shall miss it enor­mously.

Fi­nally, to the NRT it­self. In my re­view of the De­cem­ber edi­tion ( RAIL 818) I was able to say it had im­proved in qual­ity, and that I hoped this would be main­tained and that it wouldn’t be spoiled by an im­ple­men­ta­tion of the orig­i­nal pol­icy of re­mov­ing a lot of use­ful in­for­ma­tion.

Sadly, no­body is listening. I have been told by the NRT man­age­ment that they still in­tend re­mov­ing all de­tails of cater­ing, reser­va­tions and First Class, to­gether with col­umn notes say­ing where trains have come from or are go­ing.

They also want to re­move mileages. I have had to re­mind them that the Route­ing Guide spells out that the short­est route is al­ways a per­mit­ted route, and that: “The short­est route is cal­cu­lated by ref­er­ence to the mileages shown in the Na­tional Rail Timetable.”

The RDG agrees with me and is dis­cussing this with Net­work Rail. Any­way, how can it slow down pro­duc­tion to leave in the mileages?

In fair­ness, the NRT man­age­ment told me the in­dus­try does not have a sin­gle view of what should hap­pen to the NRT. Dis­cus­sions gave rise to views rang­ing from sup­port­ing dis­con­tin­u­a­tion, to mak­ing the cur­rently planned changes, to chang­ing noth­ing.

I sup­pose that’s not sur­pris­ing given the vari­able qual­ity of pub­lic­ity across the op­er­a­tors. If only there were lead­er­ship - a body that had au­thor­ity to say to Na­tional Rail op­er­a­tors: ‘th­ese are the min­i­mum stan­dards you shall adopt’.

In­ci­den­tally, as the NRT files will ap­pear far later than hith­erto, my re­view of May’s NRT will not ap­pear un­til RAIL 829, in mid-June.

RON WESTWATER.

On March 25, Great Western Railway 153370 heads into the re­verse curves near Ter­ras Cross­ing, with the 1457 Looe-Liskeard. GWR is one of only a hand­ful of train op­er­at­ing com­pa­nies to re­tain timetable books, while oth­ers have ceased ow­ing to the rise of the in­ter­net.

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