A picture's worth a thousand words

Feb 24, 2008 13:55 · 493 words · 3 minute read

As it’s Sunday, the British railway system is running at restricted capacity because of engineering works - something that always comes as something of a surprise to anyone who’s used to rail services in continental Europe, as they seem to manage to fit their engineering work around running trains.

Chiltern Railways serves the London to Birmingham via Aylesbury route, and as privatised rail franchises go, it’s run pretty well. It’s the route that I commute on daily, and the service is generally not bad - although longer trains in the morning wouldn’t go amiss at peak periods.

This Sunday, they’re digging up their track in a couple of places, which has resulted in suspension of service along part of the route. This is (verbatim for both content and formatting) the information that they’ve provided:

Sunday 24th February

Kidderminster-Birmingham-Stratford-Upon-Avon- Leamington Spa- Banbury- High Wycombe - London

No trains will operate between Warwick Parkway and Birmingham. No trains will operate between Leamington Spa and Stratford- Upon- Avon.

There will be 2 trains per hour between london Marylebone and Warwick Parkway.

Buses willl run between Leamington Spa and Stratford- Upon-Avon and Warwick parkway and Birmingham Snow Hill.

Passengers travelling between Birmingham and Leamington Spa and stations south thereof are advised to use Cross Country services to/from Birmingham New Street changing at Leamington Spa.

In addition to engineering work at the North end of the route a major event is taking place at Wembley Stadium therefore trains are likely to be busier than usual due to passengers travelling to/from Wembley. We have taken account of this by adding carriages to our trains and ensuring most trains call additionally at Wembley Stadium Station.

Aylesbury- Amersham- London

There will be NO trains on this route today buses will operate from Aylesbury to Beaconsfield calling at Stoke Mandeville, Wendover, Great Missenden and Amersham.

Change at Amersham for London Underground services to Harrow on the Hill.

Change at Beaconsfield for connecting trains to/from Marylebone.

Which makes me want to claw my own eyes out in frustration at the verbosity and lack of clarity.

Firstly, it mixes up four types of information about cancellations, reduced service frequency, peripheral information about events and alternative routes.

Then it uses inconsistent wording to describe the alternative services.

And finally, none of the information is presented graphically - the only way to work out what is going on is to read - and re-read until you understand - the text provided.

Imagine instead, if they’d taken a few minutes to provide a map (which took me five minutes in Omnigraffle):

[![Alternative railway map]

But even now, I’m not quite sure if this is right - because I can’t figure out for sure whether the buses stop at intermediate stations between Warwick and Birmingham. The buses between Aylesbury and Beaconsfield do, because it’s explicitly stated - but that’s not the case elsewhere. So do they, or don’t they?

Is this picture worth a thousand words, or so?