Archive for November, 2012

Now you can report to FixMyTransport via UK Bus Checker

UK Bus Checker is a national travel app which provides bus arrival information on your mobile. Clearly, we have a lot in common, so when they got in touch to see if there was a way we could work together, we were all ears.

The Bus Checker app works just like the information displays you can find at some bus stops, but with the advantage that you can check arrival times from anywhere – at work, in bed… or indeed while standing at bus stops that haven’t got displays.

You can also use UK Bus Checker to report problems with bus stops. Sound familiar? Well, that’s where FixMyTransport came in. After a bit of tinkering on both our sides, iPhone users can now report bus stop issues from UK Buschecker, and those which concern damage to the bus stop will be routed via FixMyTransport.

UK Bus Checker hope to roll out this feature to Android and Windows Phone early next year, too.

We’re really delighted to have opened up this new channel. FixMyTransport users have seen many successes with bus stop issues getting fixed, and it will be great to offer our platform to the users of UK Bus Checker.

UK Buschecker app - now integrates with FixMyTransport - screen 1       UK Buschecker app - now integrates with FixMyTransport - screen 2

UK Buschecker app - now integrates with FixMyTransport - screen 3      UK Buschecker app - now integrates with FixMyTransport - screen 4

UK Bus Checker screenshots:

1. Locate your bus stop, via search, or automatic geolocation

2. The app gives you arrival information for your chosen stop

3. There’s the chance to report any problems with the bus stop. Select whether you want to report an information error, or a problem with the actual bus stop.

4. Reports of damage are routed to FixMyTransport, where, as always, they are sent to the body responsible for bus stops, and at the same time published on our site for comments and support.

As for the information error reports, UK Bus Checker monitor them to identify significant or persistent problems, which they’ll then report on directly to TfL and Traveline.

Stations with the personal touch

There’s little doubt that the modern transport age has brought some incredible innovations. We gasp at the new King’s Cross roof. We appreciate being able to book our tickets online. We expect slick branding, 21st-century customer service, and mocha-frappe-lattes on demand.

But sometimes, it’s the exact opposite of all this that makes a travel experience memorable.

Think of the stations where, instead of a faceless chain, there’s a cafe where staff know the regulars and have their favourite brew waiting for them to grab and take onboard each morning.

Or the stations which display artwork from local artists in their waiting rooms – the sort of initiative that I assume comes not from head office, but from station staff having links with the community.

The personal touch might seem like something from a bygone age, but some stations are using very modern means to acheive a similar aim. Consider Stafford railway station. Like many operators and stations, they have a page on Facebook. They don’t just use it for adonyne updates on delays, though: they have genuine conversations with their followers, sometimes funny, sometimes asking for help or opinions.

Here’s one of my very favourite examples of the personal touch, something, it seems, that can be found in bus and train stations all over the world, and not always the ones serving quiet backwaters. It’s the institution of the communal bookshelf – a place where you can put books you don’t want any more, and pick up one that takes your fancy.

A quick browse through Creative Commons on Flickr showed the following pictures. Can you add any more stations to this list?

West Ealing

West Ealing Station Bookswap

Image by Chris Gilson


Cheam Station book club

Image by Kake Pugh


Train station library

Image by Lars Plougmann

And internationally…

Kamppi bus station in Helsinki, Finland

Books for free

Image by Matti Mattila

Union Station in Denver, Colorado, USA

Union Station Library

Image by Jessamyn West

Lamy, New Mexico, USA
lamy, nm train station books

Image by Elly Jonez

Hinsdale, Illinois, USA

Why Americans are cool

Image by Francesco Minciotti

If there’s nothing like this at your local station, would be a great way to request it, and gather the support of other local people.

Also see Books for London, a campaign to start book-swapping schemes in London’s tube and railway stations – it turns out the West Ealing picture, above, is a result of that scheme.  Books for London was apparently inspired, in part, by – a fun way of swapping books without the need even for shelves.

The Highs and Lows of Train Heating

Waverley by Tom ParnellHere come the cold winter days. And with them, the potential for uncomfortable rail journeys – especially when the heating isn’t working properly.

You might expect complaints about freezing carriages worthy of an ice hotel, but we also suffer from over-enthusiastic heating, making the train more like a tropical hot house. (Temperature isn’t only a problem during the winter – you can tell when summer arrives because we also start getting reports about overheating due to faulty air conditioning).

Getting the heating just right for everyone is always going to be a challenge – you can’t please all of the people all of the time. But if it’s simply not working, well, everyone can agree that it needs to be fixed!  Here is some advice about what to do.

Long distance trains are air conditioned and have on-board staff as well as the driver, so you are best finding a member of staff (preferably the train manager) and reporting the problem directly to them. They will try to fix the problem (e.g. by resetting the power) but it may be impossible to do much without an engineer. If the train is not too busy they will try and move people to an adjacent carriage, and during the summer complimentary drinks may be provided. They will often make announcements to passengers explaining the problem.

Shorter distance trains are also sometimes operated by both a driver and a train conductor, and if this is the case report the problem to the train conductor, although they may have fewer options compared to long distance trains. These trains may be air conditioned, or may just have heating and opening windows.

There are many shorter distance services which are operated only by a driver. One thing to realise is that the driver is very unlikely to know there are any problems with the heating unless they are told, and even then there may be little they can do apart from trying to reset the power if it has tripped. For older trains this may mean walking to the carriage, although newer trains may have circuit breakers in the cab. On some of the latest trains the driver can do nothing; the train automatically sends a message to the depot and an engineer may be sent to check the problem at the end of the train’s journey. It’s always worth reporting the problem to the driver as they will record it in the train’s fault book.

If you are unable to speak to the driver, then most of the train operating operating companies welcome faults being reported through their Twitter accounts; remember to include information such as the origin, destination and time of the train, and also preferably the carriage number (the 5 digit number which will often be written inside at the end of the carriage as well as on the outside).

In all these cases if you are unhappy with how the incident was handled then you can report it via FixMyTransport, and you can also do the same for well handled issues as public record of the problem and how it was handled. This way you can also add further updates if there is a recurring problem and other FixMyTransport may add their own experiences.

Image credit: Tom Parnell (CC)