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Dec 04, 2010



I found you could get better information from the BBC travel news about the trains than the train companies themselves.


Look at @LondonMidland over the past few days - like Southeastern a Govia franchise but the opposite end of the spectrum (although I must ask how we jumped from update 10 to update 13 today?). Concise simple statements, and honest facts.

I tried to follow BBC uktr_TOC for Scotrail and ditched it as total overload of repeated tweets of same hard to interpret information

Eurostar got a bit like this but calmed down and is now making short and sensible posts. The vacuum left by Southern and Southeastern has been filled by the excellent RT service - especially @_southeastern

Caltrain @biketrain commuters have a useful RT/common account that usefully advises on which trains are running late or crowded sent in from passengers as they travel - what a great way to use this wonderful reporting resource

Don't forget to mention the good move by South West Trains, who switched their website to a Snow Timetable menu - a clear map showing the services which would not be running, and set of basic core timetables which they by and large delivered as published. By withdrawing some trains and staff, they created a healthy contingency reserve to fill the holes where an incoming service was running late and thus cover those times where crews or trains are not in place to leave on time. The spare crews and trains were also available to run through the night keeping the lines clear, as the snow fell, and run every train to maximum length (ensuring there was more than one unit in a train, and thus if one unit failed a second was ready to keep the train moving.

Some folk did get it right but most never gave a peep on twitter or SMS networks Reckno we need to gather in the experiences for Savid Quarmby's review here....


I've always been impressed with thetrainline.com app for iPhone which does actually allow you tweet about trains and also pulls in tweets from anyone else by using specific hash codes for trains. It's very useful


Interesting observations Ben, and not exclusive to rail. I was meant to fly to Milan on Friday from a Gatwick closed the two days prior. The websites of both Gatwick and EasyJet offered unhelpful, non-commital updates once every few hours, whereas the twitter feeds of both provided clues and hints, though photographs and short snippets of info. While onlookers at Gatwick tweeted pictures of the progress of a de-icing runway.

The thing with all official status messages is that they're very rigid, only released at the eleventh hour when every ass of the company is covered to be sure that train or plane is, or isn't running. These often without justification or reason so the user still feels in the dark.

The nice thing about twitter is that the user can piece together data to make their own judgements; if the flight is still scheduled for two hours time, but in a twitpic you see four snowploughs on the runway you can make your own call.

On top of this, both companies did a good job of getting their tone on twitter just right. My Thursday night tweet prompting Gatwick to make a call on friday's flights "@Gatwick_Airport it's past 9. What's the verdict on tomorrow, i need to plan the hangover" got an immediate reply telling me and everyone else, they planned to open the following morning.

There's something in this.

(This said, EasyJet subsequently cancelled my flight and some Spaniards went on strike, so I never did get to Madrid)


Couldn't agree more Ben. Whilst South West Trains' website is slightly better than Southern's, their supposedly "live" updates on the revised timetable is grossly inaccurate. I checked my train, website said it was fine, hopped on a tube to Waterloo and 10mins later found it was cancelled. Maybe the site had updated? No, re-checked and the site still said it was running on time!

It became my understanding that the "live" timetable is updated once an hour and because of the short notice cancellations etc it remained accurate for only a matter of minutes, by which time it is too late.

Twitter updates from other commuters were extremely helpful there's no doubt about that, but the only true way I was able to get accurate info was from the staff at the stations. They were both accurate, and honest if they simply didn't know. I appreciated that.

Ben Smith

This is something we're doing (albeit unofficially and in addition to officially-sourced info) on @uktrains and the 38 train operator-specific accounts that make it up.... See http://uktra.in

During major disruption or serious incidents we also scan the hashtags and RT what we can too.

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