Thursday 7 June 2012

And, Talking of the Olympics ...

... How to confuse rail passengers.
Below are some extracts from Table 52 of the current national rail timetable. They show overnight journeys operating on Mondays to Fridays, of which some of the journey will have started the previous day and run "over" midnight later in their journey south. The blank columns contain trains which start further south; we are concentrating on services between Bedford and St Pancras; just to make it clearer!!!
 Clip 1  Four journeys at 2140-ish and a 2220 from Luton. And there's more ...
 Clip 2  Three journey at 2210-ish; a 2246 fom Luton and the first of a block at 2240-ish. And there's more ...
 Clip 3  Three more journeys at 2240-ish, followed by 3 journeys at 2310-ish. And there's more ...
 Clip 4  Three journeys at 2340-ish, one at 0002; two at 0040-ish. And there's more ...
 Clip 5  A journey at 0102; two at 0140-ish; one at 0202; two at 0240-ish; one at 0302. The 0240 from Bedford should be headed MO otherwise there would be a bit of a pathing conflict! And there's more ...
 Clip 6  Two journeys at 0340-ish; three at 0406-ish, two at 0418-ish. And there's more ...
 Clip 7  A third journey at 0418-ish.

All running on  SOME Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

Now, dear blog readers, have you understood it? Of course not, because you need to know what all those lettered notes mean at the top of the columns. MX (Mondays eXcepted) and MO (Mondays only) are standard and obvious. MO coded trains have started their run late on Sundays, whereas MX trains have started late on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. Clear, isn't it?

For the record, some journeys further down the table are buses, shown thus ...
... but not easy to make out in the extracts above.

So all we now need to do is to unravel the A, B, C etc notes. So, here goes ...

 Notes for Clip 1 and Clip 2 
from 21 May until 25 June
B from 2July untril 25 June
C from 17 December
D from 22 May
E from 21 May until 23 July; MO from 20 August
F from 22 May until 20 July; from 24 July until 17 August;
   MX from 21 August 
G until 18 May
H from 2 July

 Notes for Clip 3 and Clip 4 
from 2 July
B from 22 My
C until 18 May
D until 18 May (again! - fbb)
E from 21 May until 25 June
F from 22 May until 22 June; from 26 June
G 10 September
H 3 September
I  13 August
J from 29 August until 7 September
K from 30 July until 10 August

 Notes for Clip 5 and Clip 6 
until 18 May
B from 21 May until 25 June
C from 22 May until 22 June; from 26 June
D from 21 May
E until 22 June; also 4 May; from 26 June

 Notes for Clip 7 
until 18 May

And there are still more; the disruption re-appears after 0600 with more date variations, but at least these apply to all Mondays to Fridays without day notes.

And one further contribution to confusing comprehension; in the "big book" many of the of 3788 A5 pages have TWO A6 timetable pages printed on them. fbb has failed to invest in Steve Austin** style enhanced eyesight, so struggles with the A5 pages, let alone the almost illegible A6! Table 52 consists of 166 (yep, you read it right) A6 pages. And significant chunks of the timetable are simply WRONG!

The reasons for all this grunge, of course, are a combination of the usual overnight engineering works and the running of extra trains for the Olympics. The normal challenge of explaining trains which run "over midnight" doesn't help.

There is only one question to ask here, "Are they having a laugh?"

There are lots of things that could be done to make the whole thing more acceptable. In this enlarged example ...
... the A and B columns (left) are exactly the same apart from a ludicrously unnecessary one minute difference at Kentish Town (2349 column A, 2350 colomn B). The C columns are dated from 17 December which is actually outside the cover date of the "big book", so leave them out. So that's reduced three sets of times to one. Seemples!

What this all tells us is that these tables have been created by an unthinking idiot; aka a computer system! With a little thought and an intelligent human "brain", much of the above obfuscation could be edited out. But, why bother? It's on the database; it must be right! Anyway, we can't be bothered with those annoying little interferences to smooth running railway operation; they are called "passengers".

And (nearly) finally, fbb is indebted to friend and timetable guru Barry Doe for sending him this eminently bloggable "delight". A test paper will be issued in due course!

We'll end with a train picture to restore our rapidly evaporating sanity!
Thameslink psychedelia at St Pancras

** Steve Austin, the six million dollar man, played by Lee Majors ...
... "We have the technology."

 Next Blog : Friday 8th June 


  1. Question for fbb - which edition of the timetable are you looking at? My table 52, revised on 12th May and released on 18th May, runs from pages 1351 to 1476, totalling 126 pages including the table map. This changed because on the original the Saturday service (only) had been split at Blackfriars with little or no reference to where through trains were going to or had come from. The benefits of online publishing allowed Network Rail but not, presumably, TSO and other publishers of paper editions, to reissue the timetable.

    The ordinary public would not, of course, know about this because, having either bought a paper copy, which few now do, or having downloaded it for free, as I do, would think of going back to Network Rail to see if they had changed things, which they had. However, users had been warned on the front page.
    "For up to date timetables incorporating any changes to services, please refer
    to the ‘Route index / Timetable links’ document available at the following

    The electronic version also comes with the following health warning:
    "Please note that the eNRT is a long-term timetable; if you wish to plan a
    journey, visit National Rail Enquires who has timetables adjusted to take
    account of engineering works and special events."
    Finally, a little editing - Clips 1 and 2 note B, I believe that it should read 'from 02 July to 10September'.

  2. Mine is from the (error-ridden) book published for the start of the new timetable in May. I realise that corrections have been issued but, as a grumpy old man, I rely heavily on the book, however flawed.
    It is only recently that on-line pages have been corrected at all!
    Then again, once upon a happier time, BR issued amendments booklets for its printed timetables.
    Presumably I now have to double-check everything in the book against the on-line version.
    Hooray for the benefits of the interwebnet - NOT!