Sunday, 14 August 2016

Dabbling in Trains

I have been distracted, gripped I should say, by a little bit of programming, the outcome of which is to be seen at Oxenholme Punctuality Check.
Getting those charts right took a bit of learning on how to do such things on a web page, I used chart.js version 2.1.6, in which I could not get stacked bar charts to work at all satisfactorily, so decided against them in the end. Not sure about chart.js, very good in some ways but a bit lacking in some of the basics I thought. The legend down the right column of the page explains the why and what fors in doing the page at all.
Having done that, what next with it? I honestly don’t know. There are several options I can think of:
1. Tell Virgin Trains about it and ask whether they have plans in place for improvement? but perhaps they have this info to hand already and so will just say, oh no, not annuver bloody train spotter with grandiose ideas about himself.
2. Do a write-up for a rail mag on how this is done. It’d be easy to adapt it for other stations, I’d want to avoid providing an online service as that could cost me a bit in database capacity. So might be a bit technical for a rail mag possibly.
3. Probably don’t want to cause trouble by letting the local paper get wind of it.
4. Do nothing at all with it and get on with other things. That’s feeling like favourite at the moment. But then again if no one tells the rail company about it, can I complain?
5. Or there may be a local rail service monitoring group – an Obergruppenführer of the Eisenbahn Geschwader – that might be interested. (I like that title, rolls off the tongue, if there isn’t one perhaps I could volunteer).
I asked for advice, from those in the business. Essentially the advice is that there’s no point in doing anything with this, as those in the business know all about it already. Railway magazines regularly comment on it, apparently, for they get statistics too, though whether compiled so easily and slickly as mine I don’t know. The problem that is identified and regularly complained about is that measurement of train punctuality is on the destination station only, the railway companies have no performance criteria to uphold on the intermediate stations, so they don’t bother too much. There’s leeway in the timetables so that the destination station can be reached, most of the time, on time.
This seems to be different from Germany, Holland, Denmark and France, where trains do arrive at the intermediate stations on time in my experience. Italy I think possibly might be similar to the UK, though equally possibly they don’t have any measured performance statistics at all there.
It’s known about, it’s known to be piss-poor and embarrassing for the image of the UK’s transport infrastructure, and no one seems to have any real idea of what to do about it. So there you are, you see, had I not done my little charts exercise I would have known nothing of this. Something good for the learning comes from whatever you do, the key thing is to do something. Now I can go onto something else equally delightfully useless.
Number 4 is definitely favourite, then, from where I’m sitting.