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back to article Network Rail blames Atos for downtime

Network Rail has confirmed that problems with tech supplier Atos Origin on Wednesday meant it was unable to automatically update train departure boards as well as its offices losing access to the internet and external emails. An insider told us that the failure, blamed internally on a Cisco router and a spanning-tree loop, had …

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FAIL

Ah, the joys of STP

We managed to knock out our DC ISP by enabling RSTP on our switches, apparently with them insisting that this would be fine, and their switches would be unaffected. ERROR!

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Commercially sensitive?

Who do Network Rail compete with?

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FAIL

They compete with no one

However the Government always use that excuse with either Network Rail or any rail company as a get out clause of releasing any useful information.

Believe me, I've tried.

As for not affecting trains, may be not - but coincidentally the Southeastern rail network failed at about the same time - coincidence? may be but it didn't help.

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FAIL

well...

"Commercially Sensitive" usually translates to "we failed to properly negotiate our outsourcer SLA's".

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Anonymous Coward

Hmm...

I don't know who Network Rail compete with, (Ok, it's no-one) but I suspect that ATOS Origin may well compete with a fair few companies.

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Silver badge

As I've noted before

Government & Quango* deals should never be allowed to hide behind 'Commercial in Confidence'. It's one thing for two private businesses to agree to keep their contracts secret, but when it's public money we have a right to know how it's being wasted. If Atos and other bidders don't like this approach, they don't have to take part.

* OK, Notwork Rail isn't technically a Quango, having been set up as a not-for-profit** organisation wholly owned by the tax payer, in one of Gordon Brown's more memorable brain farts. It's still our money, though.

** Meaning that all the profits get paid out to the cabal that run it, in order to fund (inter alia) the purchase of a large Scottish island. I am not making this up, search on 'Iainland' or see -

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/2010/07/11/controversial-rail-chief-splashes-out-on-1m-laird-s-mansion-86908-22405116/

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FAIL

They update the boards????

So why did it showing the next train was on time during the snow and then never show?

Oh did I forgot to mention we had no trains for 3 bloody days, but the signs kept saying on time....

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Linux

Weird things

At my station if one train is late and the train that was supposed to arrive after that arrives before.

(Train A is late, Train B makes it to the station before A)

The boards show that Train A is on time, right up until Train B pulls into the platform. they then reset and show what train Train B actually is. A number of times this happened to me and I nearly got the wrong train.

My station also has lot's of downtime with their boards, they go through constant reboot loops (showing some nice configuration info on them)

IP is disabled but they are all controlled over serial. Im guessing the data comes through to a computer that then distributes it over serial to the boards.

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Anonymous Coward

@BarryBob

I'll riase you: I commute from Reading - I regularly see the signs saying that two trains will be arriving at the same platform at the same time or within a minute of each other, due to one being late. I have yet to see the signallers actually achieve two HSTs on the same platform, I'm not entirely sure how it would work, but I'd like to see it, from a distance.

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Stop

Depends on your train provider and where your station is.

The reporting information for those displays is done via the TRUST system, which is quite frankly antiquated.

Each train carries a unique headcode such as 1S23 and this information is held at the signalling panel on a machine called the Train Describer. The TD was designed to display this information on the signalling panel but has been developed to report to TRUST the location and time of a train at given points on the system.

Reporting Points are randomly spaced (often stations, but not always). So if Train A is late, but not reported and Train B rolls in, it is usually because Train A has passed the last reporting point on time but then been overtaken by Train B. This can happen because Train A has failed/delayed after the last reporting point. If your station is the next reporting point, then the next station down the line is probably showing that Train A is delayed as it hasn't showed up at your reporting point.

However, this is being replaced with GPS for a lot of operators, especially those with newer fleets. That should ensure that every station receives accurate real time information.

Clear as mud. BTW, I'm a Network Rail signalling engineer. Posted Anon as NR get all disciplinary if you comment on their kit on public forums.

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Stop

Also...

Depends on who looks after your station and what level of antiquatedness they have in the signalling equipment looking after said station.

I've seen stations where on time / late reports can only be provided by using reporting points in the local area (i.e. they're on time unless proven otherwise), yet I've also seen stations where they use very similar data to what's available on the web (http://pda.nationalrail.co.uk is priceless).

BTW, where is GPS being used to provide data to the train monitoring systems? I'm aware of the odd class which has GPS installed for providing passenger information (the Coradia family in particular), but I doubt very much they're transmitting live updates to Network/National Rail. That's got to be less reliable (and more costly) than the reporting points!

Stop icon because these are British trains, after all (I got caught in 2 hours of signalling failures at Chesterfield coming home tonight)...

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FAIL

Leave eggs in the basket

So it appears that Atos are running the Government Gateway and National Rail on the same setup? Begs the question "And how many others?".

Not very resilient I would have thought. But cheap - for Atos!

Bet their DR relies on the same failed switches too!

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Stop

Still beats me...

...why ANYONE bothers to use Couldn't-Give-Atos-Origin.

Had an interview with them once and walked out after 10 mins 'cos I couldn't stand listening to the world's two most stupid people any more. Have worked alongside their consutants on sites & seems it wasn't just the 2 interviewing me ; they attract brain-deads.

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Anonymous Coward

atos banned in several US states

from doing any business, so far as i know.

they do a lot of occy health work for uk.gov, a whitehall secretary i know, had written on her occy health file by atos 'under no circumstances permit to return to work', then atos assessed her for health benefits not long after, and declared her fit for work. ha! what a shower.

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