Published by Railfuture
Railwatch is the quarterly magazine of Railfuture, which is free to members.
Railwatch 071 - April 1997
The new rail network
Timetable information is at last available on the world wide web so anyone with a home computer and an internet connection can get access to rail information without going through the inquiry bureaux or travelling to their local station.
A journey planner has been made available by Railtrack so that you can type in your start and finish station, day and time, and the computer will provide you with connection times.
The timetable planner can be accessed via the Railwatch world wide web page at /index.html
The Railwatch site also provides links to rail user groups, rail companies and timetable information in other parts of the world.
Within a week of the Railtrack internet timetable becoming available, it was used by 80,000 people, from all over the world.
Now rail travellers who have computers are hoping to persuade Railtrack to provide accurate train running information at both stations and in the home so people will know when their trains are running late or are cancelled.
It has even been speculated that one could programme one's early morning train time into the computer which would connect, obtain information on whether your train was running late and then delay setting off your alarm clock if it was!
Experts say the public should be allowed to access train running information available in the railway TOPS computer system
Even in London, basic timetable information is not available at some stations let alone computer-based information on actual train running. One of the blackspots for information is the WAGN stations at Cambridge Heath and London Fields.
But on the Tube, at some bus stops and on Great Eastern lines, very efficient information is already available. Annabel Smyth - and there are probably many more like her - has stopped using a South London station which is unstaffed early in the morning because when the train is cancelled there is no way of knowing and she has to stand waiting for half an hour for the next one.
"If the Tube goes up the spout for any reason people can let me know what has happened in time for me to go to work some other way, she says.
"Trains do break down, and staff sometimes don't turn up - but I wish there was some way I could find out if that has happened. Going home the problem doesn't arise, as Victoria is very good at letting one know if there is to be a delay."
BR Business Systems says it will take a year before this information could be available.
By contrast, the road lobby has already begun to give information on road conditions. Vauxhall Motors is funding a Trafficmaster system for the M25.
One rail passenger said: "As a daily commuter, I make a point of watching the regular breakfast TV travel updates before leaving that warn me of any serious delays or cancellations on my (three separate train operators) journey to work. This is invariably inadequate."
Rail traveller Neil Jackson said: "Isn't it a shame that the car industry recognises the Internet as a valid place to promote its business, and even goes so far as to provide a degree of "real-time" road-network information, yet the rail business is still stuck in the Dark Ages. I feel there is still a great deal for this sector to learn."
Computer expert Paul Lee added: "Not everybody has internet access sure, but not everybody had a phone when the telephone bureaux were invented either."
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