New App Idea
App checks how late the train is, auto-compiles relevant complaint e-mail and puts in a claim for compensation (if applicable)
Blighty’s train companies are finally opening up their live database of running services to programmers – giving third-party developers up-to-date info for free after years of criticism of the closed system. The UK’s National Rail Enquiries (NRE) Darwin database will be available to anyone who wants to use the real-time …
But why do they not accept the lovely barcode tickets at other places than the lovely Marylebone
It's possible that Banbury might soon accept them. As part of the station upgrades they are installing ticket barriers and I've noticed a sticker on the front saying 'barcode scanner' and an arrow.
Mind you I can't honestly recommend travelling to Banbury just to use a barcode scanner on a ticket barrier. Frankly I'd struggle to think of any reason to go there. My excuse is that it's where I have to leave my car. I am not and never have been a resident of Banbury :)
Trains aren't that shit to be honest. I spent 5 years commuting by train, for 4 hours a day. Occasionally something really unexpected happens, and you get stranded for 2-5 hours in the middle of nowhere - that happened to me just once.
Infrequently, the first branch service would not show up, because the train didn't end up in the right place the night before or overrunning engineering works. Branch services definitely aren't as reliable as main line services, but if your main line train is delayed, they'll often delay the departure of the branch line to compensate.
The only thing bad about the trains are the cost and the overcrowding. The former is only necessary due to the latter. Everyone tries to get on trains that arrive between 8 and 9 am, with later trains basically deserted.
I suspect that it is all rigged so that commuters all travel at the expensive time - there is no significant benefit to taking a later train if you travel most days, the season ticket is the same price. This then constrains the off-peak price, because if they lowered it too much, commuters would travel later and buy individual day tickets (which would, incidentally, solve those overcrowding issues on the trains and tube and lead to a more even flow of passengers throughout the day, but hey, less money, so lets nix that one).
Here's my list of desired features from the train companies:
1) Flexible season tickets - I want to buy a season ticket of 30, 60 or 90 non-consecutive days, especially as I am expected to work from home two days out of every five.
2) Flexible walk up pricing on non-peak trains - if the train is empty, it shouldn't cost you more than £1 to ride it.
3) When I give you £6000 for a years season ticket, and in return you give me a machine processable token to get through entry gates, then the token should be durable and resilient. A paper card with a magnetic strip that lasts 2 months tops (1 month if its also a tube travelcard) is not sufficient.
3a) Stop making me carry my photocard, embed it in the ticket
Trains aren't that shit to be honest.
I agree although it might depend on the line you're using. I'm currently commuting between Banbury and Birmingham on Marylebone/B'ham route. For the most part services are punctual but I've noticed in the past that the return journeys heading south from New Street are often anything up to 15 minutes late. Presumably something happens to them 'Ooop North' :-/
Luckily my ticket lets me travel on any operator so coming back in the evening I travel from Snow Hill on Chiltern and that's a very punctual service.
I think I'd struggle to get to my office at 8am and home at 6pm that consistently by car. The morning drive should be fine coming up through Kings Heath but getting home from B'ham in the evening wouldn't be fun no matter how you did it. And cost..tbh I think if you take servicing and tyre wear into consideration I'd be hard pressed to do it cheaper by car either.
Trains aren't that awful (although you do have the occasional issue with them breaking down or otherwise being delayed by somebody jumping in front of them etc) but they are expensive. This is undeniable.
It is cheaper for me to drive in to work than to get the train over a short journey. When it came to doing a 5 hour journey pretty much across half the country to see the other half's family I was extremely dissapointed to discover that insanely it's actually still considerably cheaper for a couple to drive than get tickets and do it by train or plane.
If you make public transport cost effective, then it might get used more. Otherwise, it might be more worthwhile to put the public transport budget for pretty much everywhere other than london into improving the road networks.
Indeed, it's cheaper to drive as long as you buy the car - the purchase price is amortised very quickly. (Car hire is a lot more expensive.)
A lot of the time it's cheaper to fly than to take a long-distance train.
London to Edinburgh/Glasgow flights are usually cheaper and always take less time (including check-in).
The train only wins if you need a long taxi ride from an airport and for some reason don't need a taxi ride if you go by train.
Holy crapsticks, I didn't realise UK trains were bad.
The German train service makes the free Deutsche Bahn app (every train in Europe, every bus in Germany, and the app's available in English and Kraut).
Also, for just under £5000 you get a 1 year card, with your face on it, for the entire country, in first class. And they go at proper speeds too.
How come the UK (with a much smaller network) can't do that?
> How come the UK (with a much smaller network) can't do that?
Probably because actual data on how badly the services are run would impact franchise costs and reduce the subsidies that every franchise operator collects.
Or, short form - "privatisation". Thanks for that one, Tony Blair.
Holy crapsticks, I didn't realise UK trains were bad.,
The ones I get seem to be OK.
The German train service makes the free Deutsche Bahn app
Eurail do an Android app that has the entire European timetable available for perusal off-line (you only need to go on line if you want a map).
D-Bahn also do tickets from London to anywhere in Germany (Eurostar to Brussels, then onwards) for €59 (limited availability, book well in advance). I'm off on Friday...
"The German train service makes the free Deutsche Bahn app (every train in Europe, every bus in Germany, and the app's available in English and Kraut)."
Its called subsidies
And the trains and bus - well in London and environs are not bad. Full, yes - but not bad.
And if the DBB were so great how come the app doesn't cover Chiltern which they own?
The day I can book at Moor Street for Madrid and get a through return I will rejoice.
"Yes, in the UK we get to pay hefty subsidies, and inflated ticket prices. And still have rubbish trains."
I disagree, but its almost impossible to answer the subsidies issue. There are no clear published numbers of direct and even more difficult indirect funding and add to the picture the money the Brit Rail Cos return to the Gov but reading the German, French and Spanish press you get the impression the Govt funding is very good
On fares, you will be surprised in comparison to our close European neighbours
Take a look
Of course in places further East, ie Slovak Republic, Hungary and Mother Russia the fares by iron horse are pence.
Good suggestions - Here are a few of mine.
Phone based tickets or at least tickets you can print out at home like airplane boarding passes
Why do we have to have a ticket and a reservation ticket? Why not just have one.
Flexible ticket pricing like low cost airlines so that the price can be based on when you book (early=cheaper)
Re. lifetime of cardboard season tickets with mag strip. Mine died several times in a couple of months, and then the man in the ticket office pointed out that I had it next to my Oyster card (which gets occasional use since I don't need my season ticket to include tube travel normally). Using the Oyster killed the mag strip on the train ticket.
Since I put the Oyster in its own separate wallet I haven't had the problem at all.
YMMV and you don't say you are travelling to London but I guess any similar contactless card reader might cause the same problem.
My season ticket holds up very well. It gets run through barriers twice a day (soon to be four times a day when Banbury finally enables its new barriers) and is otherwise kept in a neat leather wallet. The ticket that is showing the most problems is my parking ticket. It has it's own wallet on my windscreen but with the sun beating down it I'm wondering if the next one will last three months before the ink has faded.
> The only thing bad about the trains are the cost and the overcrowding
The costs are somewhat ... variable.
My missus has gone to Swansea this week. The published price was some £85.
But if, instead, you got to Cardiff, and then take another train to Swansea, this comes down to £60.
Trying to buy these tickets in the station, they tried to charge her £65. It was only when she said it was £60 that they sold the tickets at that price - according to the woman behind the counter, they're not allowed to tell you the cheapest price, they can only respond to direct questions, and only sell the cheaper tickets when the customer already knows about them.
Of course, she might just have been bullshitting...
the "variable" ticket pricing is taken to extremes sometimes: walk up at local station (London zone 2) return to Telford, £58; book online, ticket for next day, £7 each for single one way, £7.50 for coming back again.
As for whether the train service is any good or not; it is - when they can be bothered to run it as advertised (forget about sunday timetables, they're mostly comedy), and when entire fast services aren't being replaced with slow ones that take twice as long and yet cost the same.
The most bizarre I remember was back in Jan or Feb. My 0654 from Banbury to Manchester was showing as cancelled on the screens. When I checked the Chiltern app it said it was because of 'A staffing problem'. I was puzzling that out when said train arrived at Banbury and went straight through with all the lights off.
I still don't understand why a staffing problem meant it couldn't stop. Surely as long as it's got a driver everyone else is optional.
My commuter trains (into Kings Cross / Moorgate) don't have guards, you insensitive clod!
They do, quite frequently, have ticket inspectors to wake you up when you've finally managed to nod off despite the terrible seats, overcrowding and noise. Because clearly having gates at both ends isn't enough.
And they are, frankly, ludicrously overpriced *and* rubbish. Even with the incredibly lax parameters for delay repay [*], I'm getting roughly one repayment a week at the moment.
[*] delays have to be over 30 mins. On a journey between 25 and 45 minutes.
It doesn't *need* one - it's just demanded by the unions on most lines. (They whined quite loudly up here in Scotland a year or so ago at the modest proposal to have the driver press the door open/close button, pretending there were safety implications - job safety, of course, since the other excuse for employing "guards" is already rendered obsolete by the existence of ticket barriers on platforms.) Scrap them entirely, invest the savings in better/bigger trains!
I switched a month ago to commuting by bus on Fridays. It takes twice as long and costs about an extra pound each time, but I get a seat. The train invariably has 30+ passengers standing in each of the three carriage, making for a very uncomfortable standing journey every time - and of course reserving a seat is completely pointless, you'd never be able to reach a seat anyway! Book a bus ticket, you actually get a seat. Pretty much what train travel *should* be - and no "guard", either, yet somehow they manage to open and close the doors without anyone catching fire in the process.
Agree with all Tom 38 points, and as a commuter at the end of a branch line, will add this - that when there is a problem on the main line, the branch line services suffer first; invariably services are cancelled and a bus laid on...and it descends into an uncomfortable, overheated, crowded pukey nightmare.
But - because the mainline soldiered on and a bus replacement provided, there's no recompense for the inconvenience. Carry on paying. At least, reduce my annual fare pro-rata but no; I still pay the same per-mile cost as the travellers on the mainline whose service is disrupted less or kept going because they represent the bulk of the travelling public.
Lastly, one train an hour?? Look - just lay on a branch shuttle to the nearest mainline connection, would you please, Abellio Greater Anglia? And make it one every half an hour. I would accept a change of train for a more regular service to get home after a long day!
Abellio Greater Anglia don't care....I consider you lucky that you get a bus replacement. I have never had one for the Norwich to Ipswich commute.
Some days it would be quicker walking, although hopefully the freight loop that goes live in Ipswich should \ could alleviate some of the delays.
The underlying issue with all public transport is that it is a revenue system, not a public service.
The service WILL NEVER EVER EVER get any better while in the hands of corporate organisations who only want to extract money from it.
Yes, the trains were founded by commercial investors looking to make a profit, but at that time, no alternative existed that could match them. Now, Road and Air compete, preventing the 'quick and dirty rail lines' from actually working.
In my opinion, the ONLY way things will get better is one of these two things happen
1 - The ENTIRE system is re-nationalised, and NO Contractors or Sub Contractors are used. (yes, that kills companies who only do rail contracting) The government then runs it as a public service, but income from the railways is NOT allowed to enter the public taxation pool, and thus most be invested back into the infrastructure, improving the system overall.
2 - The ENTIRE system is handed over to a non-governmental, non-profit company, to manage. The same applies as above. No profit, just money returned into the system.
This will allow more improvements to the infrastructure (HS2 for instance), the reduction of ticket prices, and the whole thing managed on a countrywide scale, improving efficiency.
The ENTIRE system is re-nationalise
I'm not so sure. I'm old enough to remember British Rail and although we didn't use it much as a family I do remember it being part of the standard repertoire of every comedian. It's also curious that there is a relationship between passenger numbers and ownership.
That graph implies that nationalisation might not be the answer ;)
It's a fairly dramatic change at the point of privatisation though
Whilst I agree that of course correlation doesn't imply causation I think in this case my question would be - what else occurred in 1995 to account for such a sea change? The roads reaching breaking point argument doesn't wash for me- something like that would I imagine would have a gentler effect on the curve. It's not as if half the UK roads were suddenly closed in 1995.
Correlation Does Not Imply Causation!
Agreed, hence I wrote 'might'. It's a curiously significant change though.
However, while a bit shit, it was also affordable. Cheap, even.
Cheap at point of use, perhaps, but what about the cost to the taxpayer? I agree that railways are the kind of thing where service should trump profit but on the flip side that usually means they will run at a loss and soak up a lot of money. The service I use is cheaper for an individual £13 from Banbury to Birmingham and back (nigh-on 103 miles total) just on fuel alone. Factor in the servicing and tyre wear and you're ahead. For two people it's probably cheaper by car - if you can stand the hassle.
> I'm old enough to remember British Rail and although we didn't use it much as a family I do remember it being part of the standard repertoire of every comedian
I'm old enough too, and yeah, it wasn't great. However, while a bit shit, it was also affordable. Cheap, even. It could certainly compete with an equivalent journey by private car.
At peak times, the current train system would have trouble competing with a road journey by gold-plated limousine. It squeezes the commuter dry and then cries to government for subsidies which (inflation adjusted!) add up to more than the cost of the old British Rail.
A good point..
The Train Operating Companies all have to make a return for shareholdes.
The TOCs have also bid insane prices to run the service of x number of years that directly impact ticket prices. The TOCs lease the trains (more profit for sombody else) but apparently it is more efficient. They also get huge subsidies. In real terms the TOCs are getting more subsidy than at any time under British Rail. Thye have to pay to access the track and actually run the train. More costs again but that is the stupidity of the current system. Network Rail have to have money from somewhere to maintain and improve the infrastructure. All these different layers cost money AND most have to return a profit.
One only has to look at the fiasco surrounding the ECML to realise that the franchise system is complely broken. In public ownership it has acutally been successfull yet political dogma (and presumably kickbacks and backroom agreements between ministers and the City) are repeating the process.
Every single horror story I've heard inside the rail industry about mismanagement, incompetence and sheer wastes of money all involve former public sector people, with attitudes ranging from "it doesn't matter, it's only money and it's not our money anyway" to "passengers? Not like they have an alternative train route, is it?". Where the good private sector teams - and there are some truly bad ones as well, in no way denying that! - have to interact with those attitudes, things go wrong, as you would expect. What's very wrong is that there is no way to get rid of the people with such silly attitudes, and while it remains impossible to lose those people, it's easier for the bad contractor teams to hide and pass blame. Not surprisingly, they do.
The hypothecated funding you suggest is probably a good idea but it will never happen: as with every other penny any UK government gets it's greedy mitts on, once they've got it they'll spend it wherever they think is best, regardless of what voters want. "Twas ever thus" etc etc.
On the bright side, we haven't spent £12bn on trains that are too fat.
as a bit of an old hippy, in every role I have had, whenever travel is required, I have always angled to take the train. In 18 years, never has it proven cheaper than driving - in some cases hiring a car and driving.
First time I suggested it, my boss smiled, and said certainly - just check the price. It would have been £200 per person (4 going from Birmingham to London, for a show) as opposed to the £160 (including fuel) the car cost.
And that's before the cases where you have to have an overnight stay, because the train doesn't get there in time on the day.
Travelling by train can be great provided you want to go somewhere that suits the train lines' "radiating out from London" design. If not, even in a densely populated area, you can waste all day.
Example: My office in Bracknell to my office in Slough is 18 miles. By car 25 minutes door to door, by train well over two hours.
There's a lot more delays back up the line information so if you train is leaving X and the previous station Y was an hour earlier this will tell you in great detail how it is running past every wayside timing point.
Now all we need is a proper departures display which is organised by station rather than time. Here's a non-longer-functional example http://vulpeculox.net/misc/rail/index.htm
Does this include information about non-passenger rail movements?
I'd love an app that will tell me whether a level crossing is going to be closed at a particular time so I could plan an alternative route.
Some level crossings around here are closed for up to 40 minutes out of the hour!
realtimetrains, in detailed mode, shows you freight trains, ecs workings, charters, trains passing through a station, etc. You can't query level crossings so you'd have to use a nearby station on the same line. I don't think you can check freight only lines because you have to enter a station name or CRS code.
So that you can buy ANY UK rail ticket, even for 1 stop, at last minute or during 1st 5 mins of journey on train grace period, keep favorite journeys on the app, include ticket for traveling partner, use GPS intelligently to prompt for the journey just starting, display ticket on demand to inspector.
Like I used in Switzerland years ago on holiday.
Etc etc etc.
To replace those silly machines that don't accept cash, take ages to print tickets and have queues or are out of order again.
Catch up, UK!
"keep favorite journeys on the app"
NO no no no no (etc). Favourite journey storage on a phone is just asking for companies to provide Apple and Android only, the way some annoyingly lazy people are already doing and being allowed to get away with because the competition authorities have never got past the letter A.
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