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Author Topic: Communication between the train, signal box, station and customer  (Read 3517 times)
Umberleigh
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« on: December 14, 2019, 11:24:35 am »

So yesterday the 14.26 Down Cornish Riviera was 90 minutes late into Truro station and as a result I spent a rather cold and damp 80-odd minutes on the platform (it was already late when I arrived). The reason was a trespasser on the line near St Austell.

Unfortunately, communication with us, the paying punters waiting at Truro was dire. After about 30 minutes of delay, the train disappeared from the information displays and on the GWR App, with no reason given. Instead, the following train was now showing. But I know very well that there is no passing loop between St Austell and Truro, and so quite evidently the Down Riviera was still the first train between us and St Austell.

This situation persisted for far too long until eventually a tannoy announcement informed us of the trespasser situation. Great, now after 60 minutes we know what’s going on. Except that the next train was till being shown as the delayed 15.XX Castle and not the Riviera - not great if you are waiting for someone on a train that had seemingly vanished.

Eventually, the situation resolved itself and the ‘missing’ Rivera arrived first, 90 mins late as stated earlier. But why is it seemingly so difficult to communicate what is going on to the public? The Riviera was stuck between St Austell, and Truro, had no option but to wait there and the signalling staff must have surely known this from the outset? Why make the train ‘disappear’ and give out misleading and incorrect information? This is after all a section of double-track main line without a passing loop, not Clapham Junction.

Incidentally, the two platform staff made themselves scarce once the situation began to unfold, and made no effort whatsoever to communicate with us. Even when the Riviera eventually arrived the gruff platform guy trudged past us to the platform end with closed body language and his eyes fixed firmly ahead. Really disappointing.

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AMLAG
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« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2019, 05:41:36 pm »

The information service by station staff, or rather lack of, to Passengers in this case at Truro is of concern and will hopefully be noted and acted upon by GW Managers.
However those of us, like yourself, who know more than the average passenger/ mop  how things should function, need for example in this instance, to seek out a member of staff and enquire what is happening and ask them to let waiting passengers know.

I appreciate that staff moral has recently worsened, at for example staffed Cornish main line stations, through '5 cars instead of 10 cars' and train cancellations and delays caused by Network Rail's well established and urgently needing removal of threatening tall lineside trees.
It can now almost be guaranteed that a strong wind above 40 mph will cause a few trees to be blown onto the line somewhere between Penzance and Taunton.

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phile
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« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2019, 07:39:07 pm »

The information service by station staff, or rather lack of, to Passengers in this case at Truro is of concern and will hopefully be noted and acted upon by GW Managers.
However those of us, like yourself, who know more than the average passenger/ mop  how things should function, need for example in this instance, to seek out a member of staff and enquire what is happening and ask them to let waiting passengers know.

I appreciate that staff moral has recently worsened, at for example staffed Cornish main line stations, through '5 cars instead of 10 cars' and train cancellations and delays caused by Network Rail's well established and urgently needing removal of threatening tall lineside trees.
It can now almost be guaranteed that a strong wind above 40 mph will cause a few trees to be blown onto the line somewhere between Penzance and Taunton.



Very often the station staff are not kept aware of developments themselves.
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Umberleigh
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« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2019, 12:46:17 pm »

What frustrates me in this case is the signal box staff at Truro could quite literally shout the information out of the window
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eightf48544
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« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2019, 03:07:10 pm »

What frustrates me in this case is the signal box staff at Truro could quite literally shout the information out of the window

Yes they could but they are Newtwork Rail staff and have nothing to do with passengers.
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Timmer
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« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2019, 03:13:08 pm »

Yes they could but they are Network Rail staff and have nothing to do with passengers.
You could sometimes say that about some Train Operating Companies as well.
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Henry
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« Reply #6 on: December 25, 2019, 08:02:03 am »


 Do away with all the technology and bring back the station announcer.
 As a Southern man, I remember the excellent Keith Gale at Basingstoke, who was
 informative, pleasant to listen to and most importantly a 'Railwayman'.

 
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PhilWakely
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« Reply #7 on: December 25, 2019, 08:25:26 am »

Do away with all the technology and bring back the station announcer.

Hear, hear! I remember the announcer at Exeter St Davids many moons ago and his distinctive pronuciation of Ilfracombe  .............  ILL - FRA - COME - BEE

and the one at Newton Abbot........... "This is NEW - TON (like boy's name 'Tom')  A - BOT (as in underside!)"

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Electric train
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« Reply #8 on: December 25, 2019, 10:12:23 am »

What frustrates me in this case is the signal box staff at Truro could quite literally shout the information out of the window

Yes they could but they are Newtwork Rail staff and have nothing to do with passengers.


That is true, however both NR frontline operational staff and TOC staff provide and receive  information through Route Control.  The dissemination of the information to the passenger is generally in most cases is for the TOC to do, the exception is Major Stations where it is jointly done.

The Railway Industry has got better over the years especially with the use of social media, that's not to say there is still a lot of work to do at "Putting Passengers First"
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grahame
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« Reply #9 on: December 26, 2019, 12:02:05 pm »

Do away with all the technology and bring back the station announcer.
 As a Southern man, I remember the excellent Keith Gale at Basingstoke, who was
 informative, pleasant to listen to and most importantly a 'Railwayman'.

I've chosen this contribution (amongst many) to add a comment.

Someone pointed out to me the arithmetic of having a manual announcement system at the stations along a line - in this case the local line from Reading to Bedwyn with around 10 unmanned stations.   That's going to be around 20 sets of announcements - two directions at each station, and each station has an hourly service - some a few more so you're up to around 30 sets, or 2 minutes to talk to each station.  If a typical announcement takes 30 seconds, 4 messages to each station and you've got a person talking all the time.

Is 4 messages of 30 seconds enough for each station?  Take a look ((here)) - a ten year old East Coast document but it gives something of an announcer's guide.  Potentially you need to add some "See it, Say it, Sorted" messages these days too, and some "you lucky folks, your line will be closed this weekend for engineering and you'll have the joy of a bus". 

A person might - just about - cope on a smooth-running day (but my goodness - you would need a special sort of guy or gal to keep up the positive unbored vibes hour after clock-faced hour!) - but when things aren't running properly, it becomes a potential nightmare.  We do know things go wrong, but you can't have someone on standby locally - the logical thing is to have automated systems for the regular, and a national pool of people ready to take on announcements at Aldermaston one  day, at Acle the next, Aintree on the following day, Achnashellach the day after that, and Avoncliff on the Friday.  But then that's likely to fall down with the lack of good local knowledge - more especially if the pool person lives far, far away and training is cheapened with a further instruction to offer advise at disruption time that's not going to break the TOC's bank.

Not reading very positive, am I?   Yet I have a thought.   The Community Cafe / Station.   TransWilts' "Melksham Masterplan" should take a step forward next year, and that includes the opening of a Community run Cafe in May [2020].  The TransWilts CIC is taking the lead in the planning and works, with day to day issues being shared outside their core team only on a "need to know" basis.  There's a lot to be said for that - it's saved the Melksham Rail User Group the need for deep planning, admin and financial involvement now that the CIC has a qualified professional paid CRO - and it's saved the group the worry, but it does mean I can't write up for sure how it will work.   HOWEVER ...

I hope TransWilts re-introduce their concept of Station Ambassadors;  I hope the volunteers will be provided with a hot desk where those of us who are active / newly retired or work from home can work instead, looking after customers as and when they're there. I hope (but have reason to suspect otherwise) that Melksham Station will be fitted with speakers.  Even with limited feeds such as Open Train Times maps and Real Time Trains and Tiger feeds, a knowledgable volunteer can read the runes and advise and with an appropriate feedback channel to GWR / Network rail can help resolve any issues quickly and practically.   Won't be perfect, but no more instructions to wait 5 hours for the next train, nor to walk nearly 3 miles to join the Trowbridge to Swindon bus.

The Ambassador / knowledgable station cafe volunteer role goes further - in helping the nervous newcomer to rail know the ropes.  And even if not a ticket agency to help order online from the cafe, to collect from the machine in the waiting shelter.  But this thread is about announcements so I had better not drift too far in the more general direction, had I?
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grahame
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« Reply #10 on: December 26, 2019, 12:24:25 pm »

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/90443/response/221386/attach/3/Station%20Announcements%20Final.pdf

28 page document - East Coast, dated 2009

Quote
Our goal is to ‘make travel simpler’ for our customer. We intend to do this by putting our customer at the heart of everything we do in our business. Our people are our biggest asset and therefore provide the biggest opportunity for us to succeed through good customer engagement. The Station Announcers are one of the key ways in which we achieve this and this document gives guidance for the announcer, on how to communicate with our passengers, using the public address system.

Good customer communication is a vital part of our strategy and we need to think customer in every situation. How we communicate with the public both face to face and using the PA system will influence how our passengers think of us.

The aim of the announcements must be to provide those waiting at stations, both customer and those waiting to meet them, with helpful information. In order to offer a high quality service we must tell customer that their train is on time, or if there is a delay, where and what the problem is, what we are doing to remedy the situation, and when the train will arrive. The manner in which it is delivered must reflect a positive image of East Coast.

It is essential that we make use of all the available information sources as this will enable you to provide the most accurate information to passengers. This will be invaluable in reassuring passengers that everyone involved is working hard to minimise delays.

A lot of excellent stuff ... but one or two things I might wish for but not covered ... lots of directives telling people about cancelled trains every 5 minutes in the run up to their due time. Good.  Instructions to tell people what alternative they have. Good. But ... no instuctions I could see on continued re-assuring support after the scheduled time has passed (the dreaded "it just disappeared off the screen" - in my view continued support should be given until the alternative has left (with an eye to not worrying people who have only arrived at the station for that alternative and no comment to confirm that offering money back via delay-repay is NOT an alternative to providing a way for people to travel - it's in addition.  That latter might be solved in an update - I don't think Delay Repay was around when the document was first written.
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CyclingSid
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« Reply #11 on: December 27, 2019, 07:06:20 am »

The weasel words are "The manner in which it is delivered must reflect a positive image of East Coast." This is where the obfuscation and half-truths come in so as not to reflect on the image of the organisation.
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