Friday, 17 August 2012

Train departure boards and the English language

Operators of train departure boards have redefined the English language.
Experience as a commuter has shown me that, at least in South Eastern region, strange usage of the English language has become the norm on train departure boards. According to the platform indicators trains have ‘arrived’ when the reach a point outside the station about half a minute before anyone on the platform can see them.

The indicators still show trains as ‘On time’ if they ‘arrive’ at the station up to 3 minutes after their scheduled departure time.

So a train has ‘arrived’ when  it is half a minute outside the station. Add another three minutes leeway when it is still considered ‘On time’. Now the ‘On time’ train is at the platform but it takes about two minutes for all the passengers to disembark from and get on the train.
Finally the train can leave the station half a minute ply three minutes plus two minutes after it should have left the station. Officially it is still ‘on time’, in reality the train is now five and a half minutes late. A redefinition of the words ‘on time’

On one particular occasion this abuse of the English language almost caused me to board the wrong train at London Bridge. I ran across the foot bridge at London Bridge to try and catch my train which was ‘on time’. The train which was standing at the platform as I rushed down the stairs closed its doors just before I could board it. The train at the platform was, in fact the train before mine and would have taken me in completely the wrong direction. 

Clear communication would be a wonderful thing.

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