24 December 2006
Tracking the trains
Brian Micklethwait
Train Tracker

I had a Christmas query about trains, and rang 0845 7484950, which is the number written on a Post-It Note above my desk together with the word “TRAINS”.  The robot-woman at the other end told me that what with planes being befogged, they are very busy, but mentioned a phone service called “traintracker”, and mentioned a website where the “terms and conditions” (which sounded to me like: extortionate cost) for traintracker were spelt out.  I googled “traintracker” and got to this.  Not wanting further ordeal by robot, or expense that I might be able to avoid, I then clicked on something called TrainTracker Text.

I am crap at internetting.  I still buy books in bookshops rather than on line.  But, after a brief hickup while I told it that by Waterloo I meant London Waterloo rather than Liverpool Waterloo, I found the text version of TrainTracker most helpful.  I liked that I got a choice of trains at around the date and time that I specified, and I liked especially that I had the option of looking also at earlier or later trains between the same two destinations that day.

I am in the habit of saying that Britain’s trains – well, the London based surface trains that used to be British Rail, that I know about – have got better in the last year or two (although at what cost to me as a taxpayer I shudder to guess).  This is just one of the ways in which I sense that things are improving.  This TrainTracker thing - which presumably covers all of England, Scotland and Wales - didn’t exist a few years back.  Did it?

  1. I quite agree with you that things have got better (from a traveller’s point of view) over the last couple of years.  Trains are both more punctual and newer/refurbed.

    As I understand it this is partly because they’ve introduced combined control centres with the Network Rail people and the train operating people working in the same office.  And partly because they have spent a fortune on new trains, train refurbs and track repair.

    So, not so good for non-rail travelling taxpayers.

    By the way, please don’t tell me that http://www.nationalrail.co.uk is new to you.  I have been using it for at least 5 years.

    It is new to you isn’t it?

    Posted by Patrick Crozier on  24 December 2006 at 02:22 pm

  2. Yes it is.

    This is because I rarely travel by train, and even more rarely need to find out about train times.  Basically, only at Christmas.  When I do need to find out about train times, I have tended to ring Directory enquiries, and to ask for the train enquiry telephone number.  When I rang that, I got through to a person, who told me about my train.  Presumably he used nationalrail.co.uk

    This time was different.  I didn’t get through to a person, I got a robot.  And the robot told me about “TrainTracker”, and named a website.  I didn’t catch the website, but knew that I had something to google.  So I did, and thereby learned, for the first time, about nationalrail.co.uk

    I do not apologise.  I had no problem to which nationalrail.co.uk was the solution.  As soon as I did have such a problem, I found my way to nationalrail.co.uk within about a minute.  This is how to live.  Knowing all kinds of crap you don’t need is not how to live.

    Posted by Brian Micklethwait on  24 December 2006 at 03:08 pm

  3. I was joking!  I am a great supporter of your view that incomprehensible technology is their problem not yours - of which this is a semi-detached example.

    It makes life a lot easier.

    Posted by Patrick Crozier on  24 December 2006 at 03:21 pm

  4. Another related site - also available from the same website - is the live departure board. Put in the name of a station and it will show in real time arrivals and departures.

    My old office used to overlook a station and nobody could work out for months how I new where every train came from, and was going to. Hours of fun.

    Also useful to know when the last train home is at the next station up the line so that “Dad Cabs” picks up just in time.

    Posted by Invicta on  10 January 2007 at 08:19 am

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