Networks & Connections

I don’t know what it is about the railways that fascinates so many people but it does. As I type, there’s a mysterious world of trainspotters taking pictures of Diesel Multiple Units from the far end of station platforms somewhere in the UK. Certainly, it’s an important/large enough passtime for the BBC to have devoted three hours of evening TV hours to Transporting Live a few weeks ago week.

I’ve often wondered if this is only a British phenomenon? I am not sure I understand that although I will admit that, as a child, I crossed out bus registration plates in a book that listed all the vehicles operated by the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive. Bus Spotting: it was Pokémon Go for a 70s childhood.

Perhaps it’s not that hard to explain after all.

However, I do have my own fascination with the networks of the railways. There’s something about the running of an infrastructure that moves thousands of people daily that really interests me. Previously, I’ve highlighted the complexities of the Oyster smart-card system and written about the Hidden London visitor series which can take you to disused parts of the Underground network.

Fellow London commuters frustrated by the levels of service provided by the Southern franchise right now will rightly not be interested in the history of the network or Oyster permutations: after all, what good is a fare if the trains have been removed? But they may be interested in this from the London Reconnection site: “Meltdown Monday: How Southern’s Problems Run Deeper Than Disputes” which provides interesting background on why the current problems are not as simple as an argument about who closes the doors.

People have warned for years that London’s transport system will start to collapse due to the sheer number of people using it. That is unlikely and gentle degradation is a more likely outcome. What consistently seems to get overlooked, however, is the possibility that two or three problems, relatively small and insignificant in themselves, can come together to produce a situation that is hard to unravel and even more difficult to solve.1

How many of us travelling on the railways understand things such as Dwell time or Sunday Rest Day working?

Basically on large parts of the railway, still, Sunday is not a rostered working day for train crew, and management is reliant on people working rest days to provide a service.2

It’s worth a read if you have the time while staring at the platform display hoping a train will appear.


1 Meltdown Monday: How Southern’s Problems Run Deeper Than Disputes: London Reconnections
2 ibid

Coming Up

I guess I could have tried to make this the first in the 2016 Blog Every Wednesday in August series. However, last Wednesday I said that the quote and link format, although a blog staple, is not the BEWA way. I felt this post would be cheating. I may regret that next week when I have to find something to write about.

Blimey, BEWA’s Back!

About 2 years ago, after paying another website hosting bill, I came up with a meme that — surprisingly — failed to take the world by storm. I have no idea why. The primary aim was to put some words on this site to justify those fees. Why it wasn’t a trending topic is beyond me.

So, for 2016, I’m bringing back the catchy meme: Blog Every Wednesday in August. Y’all can thank me later.

The whole point of BEWA, for that is the meme’s catchy, social media-friendly & hashtaggable name, is to challenge myself to find a variety of topics to write about in the style of a proper blog rather than a ‘status’ update. I find this part challenging as my brain has been coached to find Internet content longer than a paragraph hard to process.

If you’re still reading at this point, congratulations, you’ve not caught the one-sentence-and-an-emoticon bug so prevalent today [insert relevant happy emoticon].

There are occasions on this blog where I link to interesting pieces elsewhere but with the BEWA project I’m challenging myself to write something longer about the topics I select and not simply quote and link. At one point, the quote and link format was a Blogger staple — and is still done remarkably well by some people — but that’s not the BEWA way.

Topics last season included a post about somebody who was once in an Australian daytime soap opera, a quite serious point about writing technology RFPs, a piece about user design and a frustration with the whole idea that internet advertising is a single ‘thing’ (hint: it isn’t).

If I look at this site’s referral information today (specifically, the Google searches that send visitors my way) I see that little has changed. Ex-Australian soap stars are still at the top of the tree, although there are also a few references to this post on the EU Referendum which was written and posted long before the political mess that followed the result. In the interests of not repeating myself and because I’m not more clued-up than anybody else, I’ll be avoiding both Australian soap actors and European politics in this year’s BEWA (although if I want to generate more traffic perhaps I should take the opposite view).

At this point I have one idea for something to write about that I might use so I have a few days to figure it out. Of course, it could be a lot of nonsense written about nothing. The goal, however, is to get writing again so I hope you’ll indulge me for a month. After all, you’re going to need something while you’re waiting for your train.

And what’s that you say, we’re still in July? Think of this of the summer bonus entry that you wish you hadn’t wasted 2 and a half minutes reading. The whole thing starts this time next week. Set your alarm; although there will likely be a 140 character status update to remind you. I’m preparing a selection of useful hashtags.