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Author Topic: Defective on-train PA systems  (Read 814 times)
Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #15 on: November 13, 2018, 11:23:40 am »

Well, in the modern day rules, a train with a defective PA shouldn't enter service.  I always wondered how a DOO train driver was supposed to check it was working OK though!  Wink

Volume and clarity vary massively between types of train, and even trains of the same type.  Newer trains often generally have better speakers and PA systems, and generally you stand a better chance of hearing when it's an electric train which has air-conditioning for obvious reasons.

GWRís DOTE ( Defective on Train Equipment) states that the train can not enter service from a maintenance depot with a defective or isolated PA.  It can enter service if it has been outstabled and it can remain in service if the PA becomes defective during the day.  The Train Manager or Guard should patrol the defective coach and make announcements as necessary.  If the train is DOO then itís out of service unless the passengers can all be moved to a non defective coach or a work around using the GSMR is successful.

The PA will not be checked on overnight checks or on minor exams, so unless the defect is reported by train crew to Control or by passengers to train crew, who then report the fault to Control, it wouldnít get picked up.

On major exams, the PA would be tested in every vehicle and from every handset point, something that generates a tone is played down the handset and the maintenance staff would walk through the set or unit checking the volume and clarity.

As somebody who spent 30 years digging into details of things that go wrong (albeit not within the railway industry), this statement poses as many questions as it answers.

Firstly, if the PA system is only fully checked on a major exam, it begs the question of how long between major exams? Presumably on this basis a PA system could partially fail (le. specifically a dodgy handset, or speaker(s) within individual coaches) on the first day back in service. It could then run like that until the next major exam, unless the defect is reported. And such defects aren't likely to be reported by the train crew's observation of a fault if, for example, a speaker isn't working properly in coach E of an 8 car HST and the train crew are nowhere near that coach when they're making announcements.

So that then begs the next question of who is going to report the defect? Other train crew/ railway staff travelling on the train? The general public? I would suggest that whilst some members of the public might report a crackle from a speaker rather than an announcement, I wouldn't have thought that many are likely to report a problem about a message that they haven't heard that they wouldn't necessarily be expecting anyway! (eg. my experience further up the thread with a LC failure near Abbotswood where the guard told me he made an announcement and I didn't hear it). I might just add about that incident that I just happened to see the guard on Lansdown station platform and I had the miseries anyway because I'd been standing from Brum. If I'd have had a seat on that journey I probably wouldn't have sought out the guard to remonstrate! In fact even then I didn't "seek him out" - he was standing just outside the vestibule I was standing in so he was a sitting target!  Smiley

I suppose if I had sent a letter or email to XC's Customer Service saying a variation on "your guard didn't make announcement about out-of-course delays" then this may eventually have led to his Supervisor having a word. Then, after the resultant "No You didn't! Yes I did!" style conversation, the fact may eventually dawn that there was a problem with the PA on that unit and a defect report would go in. In the meantime of course, that Voyager unit would have cracked up a fair few miles, each time shunting around a coachload of passengers who would have been in blissful ignorance that everybody else on the train was being kept informed, but they weren't!

This is the point that I would normally say in one of my reports "So here are my recommendations to resolve the problem." I'm afraid I am a bit short of solutions here other than to increase the frequency of checks on PA systems to include them on at least minor exams, and preferably daily.
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #16 on: November 13, 2018, 11:40:22 am »

Quote
Good question ... I only SUSPECT she came back on the London train - that's the one bit of the jigsaw I'm unsure of; she may have been on a Cross Country service that wouldn't have stopped at Chippenham.
If you could let us know which day it was we can soon find out what options were available at that time of day.

I'm ahead of you Robin ... Thursday of last week, and it depnds on how quickly she got under the subway at Bath Spa as to whether she was on opposite platform in time for the London train or not.  I don't think knowing which is really material to the fact that the data she got there put her on a service that wend straight ahead at Bathampton rather than turning right.

I agree with you about the information she was given was incorrect and shouldn't have been. But what was interesting me in relation to the theme of the thread was whether she was then given on-train information, either via announcements or the visual display in an 800, that she either didn't see, wasn't listening  or chose to ignore.

In a way it's easier for us because we have prior knowledge. If I was standing on Bath Spa station and an HST turned up, I would not be expecting it to be going to Trowbridge (summer Saturdays at certain time of day excepted) so I wouldn't get on it without checking either the departure board, or with a staff member, or both, that this was indeed "my" train.

Leaving Bath there would (should) have been an announcement: Welcome to GWR... Paddington train... list of stops...next stop Chippenham." Trowbridge would not have been mentioned. If it had been me that lack of the word "Trowbridge"  would have been a concern. OK it would be too late for her to get out now, as the train is picking up speed through Sidney Gardens, and I would be out of there at the next stop. Perhaps that's what happened of course - we shall never know for sure.
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WelshBluebird
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« Reply #17 on: November 13, 2018, 12:37:22 pm »

Had one last week or the week before that caused a passenger to get a bit flustered. At Keynsham heading towards Bath and the guard was having problems with closing the doors. Took about 8 mins or so in total, so not really much of a delay. The problem was each time the guard had thought the doors were closed and gave the all clear to the driver, the automated announcements would kick in thinking we were the next station down the line. This happened several times so by the time we actually left the system thought the next station was Avoncliff! In this case it was fairly obvious the system was wrong (as we had not moved!) but that still worried at least one passenger who had to be reassured by the person sitting next to them (who I don't think they knew beforehand) that it was ok.
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Adrian
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« Reply #18 on: November 13, 2018, 08:52:52 pm »

I've often wondered - how easy is it for the driver (or conductor?) to get the automated PA back in sync when it's announcing the wrong stations?  Presumably they are just as aware as most of the regular passengers it's gone wrong?
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IndustryInsider
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« Reply #19 on: November 13, 2018, 09:01:10 pm »

Fairly easy to clear routes and re-set them up on most systems.  The staff don't necessarily notice straightaway though, especially on a DOO service where you might not be able to hear if you're the driver.
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Surrey 455
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« Reply #20 on: November 13, 2018, 09:28:32 pm »

I've often wondered - how easy is it for the driver (or conductor?) to get the automated PA back in sync when it's announcing the wrong stations?  Presumably they are just as aware as most of the regular passengers it's gone wrong?

On my journey from Euston to Milton Keynes on Saturday (final stop Birmingham), it took until Bletchley for the automated PA and display to stop saying that the next stop was London Euston our final stop. It was then reset to announce the correct calling pattern. On SWT / SWR I have often heard announcements telling me that the next station is the one we had left 5 minutes earlier. Normally a manual announcement afterwards by the guard and throughout the journey to say the auto announcer is wrong, so I'm guessing some PA's are easier to reset mid journey than others.
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #21 on: November 14, 2018, 08:31:00 pm »

From the responses that have come in so far it is clear that there is a problem that goes far wider than the technical PA problems that were the original subject of this thread, and also that it is not a problem confined to GWR stock. We have faulty PA systems and a whole host of inaccurate automatic announcements being foisted upon the customers.

Perhaps it would be good for all of us to remember that this is customer-facing stuff, and as such has an important PR function as well as information dissemination. Another point to bear in mind is that not every passenger is a regular traveller on a given line, and certainly not "railway orientated" as I suspect the majority of members are on this forum.

The tale about Avoncliff further up the page got me thinking. From personal observation from using the station myself, from being on trains calling at the station, and from simply looking over the bridge parapet, this station gets far more use that it would expect from the very few locals who actually live around there. It is quite "touristy;" pleasant scenery in the area, only a mile's walk along the canal towpath to Bradford on Avon, and has the Cross Guns, a pub/restaurant that brings in a fair amount of visiting trade. If someone who doesn't know the area or the railway geography is going to Avoncliff, and as in the example above, is told that Avoncliff is the next stop as they're leaving Saltford tunnel behind, they might well get out at the next stop as advertised. Whilst not wishing to disparage the suburb of Oldfield Park, I am sure that even the local residents will accept that it ain't no Avoncliff, and they certainly won't find the Cross Guns handy...

As I said, this is front-line customer-facing stuff and as such should be right at all times. If it can't be right at all times (eg with automated announcements) then the automated announcement should be shut off until they can report accurate information. And this of course doesn't just apply to GWR, it applies to all TOCs equally.

I am sure there will be some who would argue that on-train crew members have enough to do (safety critical roles, selling tickets, on DOO driving the train etc) without having to battle with a faulty PA or automated information system as well, but in one way this is beside the point. Management (of all TOCs) appear to be allowing a dog's breakfast of an information system loose on the public, and I would argue that that is seriously bad PR and also sets the TOCs up to public ridicule if the press happen to get hold of a particularly "juicy" example.
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eXPassenger
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« Reply #22 on: November 14, 2018, 10:33:50 pm »

Completely agree.  The quality of PA (audibility and accuracy) is a very important part of the customer experience.
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plymothian
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« Reply #23 on: November 15, 2018, 04:58:34 pm »

[u=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6WTiDr8yI4]This train is obsessed with toilets[/u]
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Trowres
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« Reply #24 on: November 15, 2018, 06:49:07 pm »

Is working PA considered as a safety-critical feature by RSSB et.al? - perhaps just for DOO? (It wasn't clear from earlier in this thread whether or not the working PA requirement was a GW policy or mandated from above).

If it is, then to have a safety-critical system that is neither fail-safe nor testable (in normal day-to-day working) is, to put it politely, a dog's dinner.
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #25 on: November 15, 2018, 07:51:54 pm »

Is working PA considered as a safety-critical feature by RSSB et.al? - perhaps just for DOO? (It wasn't clear from earlier in this thread whether or not the working PA requirement was a GW policy or mandated from above).

If it is, then to have a safety-critical system that is neither fail-safe nor testable (in normal day-to-day working) is, to put it politely, a dog's dinner.

Either I've misunderstood your post or perhaps you mine Smiley

I didn't say that the PA system was safety critical; I said that the train crew have got enough to do, including their safety-critical roles, without having to bother about faulty PA systems. As you say though it wasn't clear from the posts so far whether a non-working PA system is simply a GWR train failure item or if it is widespread throughout the industry.
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Trowres
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« Reply #26 on: November 15, 2018, 07:55:05 pm »

Sorry Robin; I was being a bit too economical with the quoting. My post was in response to:

Well, in the modern day rules, a train with a defective PA shouldn't enter service.  I always wondered how a DOO train driver was supposed to check it was working OK though!  Wink

Volume and clarity vary massively between types of train, and even trains of the same type.  Newer trains often generally have better speakers and PA systems, and generally you stand a better chance of hearing when it's an electric train which has air-conditioning for obvious reasons.
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Incider
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« Reply #27 on: November 15, 2018, 08:43:26 pm »

Is working PA considered as a safety-critical feature by RSSB et.al? - perhaps just for DOO? (It wasn't clear from earlier in this thread whether or not the working PA requirement was a GW policy or mandated from above).

If it is, then to have a safety-critical system that is neither fail-safe nor testable (in normal day-to-day working) is, to put it politely, a dog's dinner.

Either I've misunderstood your post or perhaps you mine Smiley

I didn't say that the PA system was safety critical; I said that the train crew have got enough to do, including their safety-critical roles, without having to bother about faulty PA systems. As you say though it wasn't clear from the posts so far whether a non-working PA system is simply a GWR train failure item or if it is widespread throughout the industry.

Most TOCís DOTEís will be similar, they are derived from the rule book, some years ago it was left up to TOCís to manage some defects in their own way.  Some things in the DOTE will be rule book mandatory, some will be TOC decisions, maybe in conjunction with NR.   GWR will have ATP in theirs, whilst others wonít as itís not relevant.
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