This morning I visited Loughborough, a trip that was facilitated by an excellent and rapid train journey from St Pancreas. Now I could tell you all how the train provided a good service and was faster than the car but no there is another subject that sparked the title. You see the train had an electronic reservation system, you know the deal a small display above the seat tells you if and from where the seat is reserved. Now I never reserve a seat but because I booked an advance fare via the web (saving over £100) it seemed that I had to determine the train and seat that I would travel in, including warnings on the reservation that stated it was mandatory and complimentary.
And so, as I arrived at platform 4a I was met with utter chaos, people milling around without so much as a clue as to where they were meant to be going. What caused such confusion and changed normal people into mindless sheep? The failing of the electronic reservation system no less, now you think that would mean people couldn’t see which seats were reserved and you would be correct, but alas that is not the limit of the confusion. You see some bright spark has decided that not only should the seat status be electronically displayed but so should the seat number and car number! Why do these need to be electronic? does the seat number change? perhaps its binary in Cambridge as a mark of respect to the scholars?
The number of seats in a carriage does not change so why do the seat number need to be electronic? For those of you that think maybe they change according to the direction of travel you are wrong, they can’t because the reservation system knows which seats face North and which face South. Ignoring the insanity of electronic seat labels they identify the coach, both internally and externally, by an electronic screen. A coach is a coach is a coach, the buffet and first class cars are fixed and the train is a fixed consist so what possible benefit does a fancy electronic display that can be changed have over a fixed identity?
I will tell you the only benefit that I can see is that it allows the fat controller to laugh when the system is not working and he is watching the passengers mill around confused. There can be no other earthly purpose for such a pointless system, as you know I am not an environmentalist but for once think of the environment, did we need these LEDs? do we need to consume this power? simply to tell us something that a sticky label has told us for years.
This is the equivalent of making all road signs electronic, not the warning or information signs the actual direction signs. Imagine the trouble that you would have on the M25 trying to time the distance between coming on to the road and your exit because there has been a power cut and none of the junctions are labelled, all whilst trying to spot the bloody cameras! why would anyone do this?
We eventually sat down at various seats in various cars with no real order and then guess what? on the way home the system was working! I looked at my tight row of two seats with one occupied by an overweight man and behind them a wider row of uninhabited seats, I checked the reservation indicator that glowed ‘no reservation’ and it was right, I had no reservation in using the better placed seat.
As the ticket collector came through I gave her a withering look and mentally challenged her to enforce the ‘mandatory’ complimentary reservation, no such challenge and so I complete my return journey without ever complying with the flaky* electronic reservation system and the seat police. Rebel I hear you say, damn right a rebel without a cause!
*As I write this blog I have observed the chilli**coated peanut on the floor under the seat in front and the tea stains on the fold down table. I am in fact in the same seat that I travelled North in, since the system is working this time around I feel justified in calling it flaky
**Some artistic licence here, I presume that it is chilli coated I didn’t actually confirm