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March 26, 2007 12:03 AM

Broken: Train station posting

Dsc00254Ian Chard from the UK writes in:

This sign, or a variant thereof, has been on display in the ticket office of Kingham station in Oxfordshire, in the UK for at least two years. It reads:

Urgent Information

Please do not leave the station if the information screens are showing that your train may be late.

We regret that on occasions we have problems with the operating system please bare [sic] with us.

The information screens at all stations on the Cotswold line, including the major Oxford station, vary between displays of correct train information, randomly fluctuating departure times, impossible train descriptions (e.g. stations out of order or repeated), a display of "CANCELLED" when the train is in fact running... everything except a game of Tetris. 

Platform announcements, all automated, are similarly affected. You'd think that two years would be enough time to get this debacle fixed, or at least work around it. 

The problem is compounded by the public address system at the more minor stations on the route, which can't be used by local staff:  they can only play the automated announcements. 

So, Kingham's ticket office staff have taken to screaming across the platform when a problem really does occur!


I'm afraid you'll have to post the entire British public transport system as being broken. This is one of many, many, many examples...

Posted by: Caliban10 at March 26, 2007 02:19 AM

A One-Act Play Regarding Today's "This Is Broken" Post

[ The year is 1993 ]

[ Scene: John Major's Cabinet ]

John Major: I now call this cabinet to order. Praise be to Thatcher!

All members: Praise be to Thatcher!

John Major: First order of business: Privatising the railways.

Cabinet member 1: Excellent! Through privatisation we can break up the monopoly of British Rail, creating a new market in railway operations to encourage competition and improve standards!

JM: What? Market? Competition? No no no -- we're just going to carve up the rail operations and sell them off to the lowest bidder.

CM1: But won't that mean that each company will have their own area of operations guaranteed to them, leaving no effective competition between companies on individual routes -- so no incentive for them to improve services?

JM: Exactly!

CM2: So each private company will effectively have a monopoly in it's area of business, just like British Rail does at the moment -- except that since they're not controlled by the government, they will not be able to be held accountable; not even by the public through the ballot box?

JM: That's a little harsh -- there will be a rail regulator.

CM2: And what power will that have?

JM: ...Not much. But get this: the government will heavily subsidise all the companies!

CM1: So even though the government will have no power to make any major decisions whatsoever under this system, the public will still be paying for the companies to be subsidised?

JM: Yup!

CM1: And you don't think that this will lead to situations such as completely broken information systems at train stations remain broken for more than two years because there is no incentive for the companies involved to fix them, and no way for them to be held accountable?

JM: Nope!

Tony Blair and New Labour: Despite our own manifesto and against all logic, it turns out we agree!

All: Praise be to Thatcher!

Stephen Byers: Bring it on, Railtrack!

[ Fade to black ]

[ Curtain ]

Posted by: Simon at March 28, 2007 11:43 AM

Most signs in service are broken. They shift the burden of fixing problems onto the customer, instead of those who caused them.

Customer: "your service is broken!"

Supplier: "didn't you read the sign?"

The cappuccino machine in my office has over three fully printed signs posted around it of what not to do to it... complete with almost as much text hand scribbled onto it. No where is there a sign that says how to actually use it.

This was almost as good as the signs in the elevator. One reads: "this is not the elevator to the usability lab," with another sign next to it admonishing anyone from "defacing" the first sign.

People have been trapped in this elevator multiple times. One sign on the inside helpfully reads: "if there is a problem with this elevator, call [phone number] or email [email]." The elevator is made of steel.

Posted by: J H at March 31, 2007 01:39 PM

P.S. ... you'd think that people from the "usability lab" would know better.

Posted by: J H at March 31, 2007 01:40 PM

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