Monday, 26 November 2012

Back in the office

UPDATE: Despite leaving Paddington a minute early (unlucky for some!), my District Line train still managed to get to Wimbledon three minutes later than it should have.  Fortunately, this didn't matter (to me) because I still made my connecting train to Hampton Court as it too was late in arriving (four minutes).  That had lengthened to eight minutes by arrival at my final destination for a grand total of £20.  The reasons for these delays were, respectively, none and inaudible.  That's two squares for Tube Bingo.

Whew!  Bit of a weird week, last week, what with barely being in the office!  Still, so far as I'm currently aware, I'm in every day this week, including - controversially, Friday.  So hopefully a lot more updates for all y'all.

Starting with this morning.  No explanations at all, but five minutes late on the train coming into Waterloo, and another two on the connecting tube to Edgware Road.  That's a total of seven minutes for £17.50.

In other, well, let's call it 'news', shall we?, do you remember the fanfare with which TfL rolled out Oyster?  It was a good system, and a massive improvement on what went before.  Probably necessary, despite the fact it was clearly of limited lifetime use because of some of the other ticketing technologies that were already being brought into play.  Well, TfL's talking about contactless payment ticketing technology now (I don't know for how long, hence the use of the term 'news', but it'll be available next year).  Basically, you can use your contactless credit or debit card as you would an Oyster to swipe in and out of the gates and buses, etc.  Money for the trip hence goes direct from your account, with no need to top up cards, queue for tickets, and all that jazz.

That sounds awesome, but it's another stop-gap measure.  TfL says it has trialled NFC technology (which would allow you to do the same but with your mobile phone) and finds it too slow.  I know quite a lot about this because of my profession and, while that's more or less true for a high-volume, rapid-transaction system like the tube, it's clearly not always going to be so.  And with more and more retailers supporting both payments and intelligent loyalty and vouchering schemes, it seems a foregone conclusion that the traditional wallet (including all its cash and cards and receipts) will migrate to the smart phone over the next few years, which means TfL ticketing is going to have to follow suit.  It's already the case in buses in some locations outside of London.  The difference is, it's harder to see this time why we, the customers should pay increased fares to fund this temporary and marginal improvement over Oyster - and then the one to NFC later, rather than just wait for NFC with trusty Oyster in place.  TfL will tell you it's because they can realise savings in the cost of ticketing infrastructure, but do you think we'll see those savings passed on as cheaper tickets, or even a freeze on price increases?  Don't hold your breath.  Basically, this is just another sign of TfL's short-sightedness.  Any savings they do realise (and I doubt there will be any, at least in the time frame before they rip out this system and replace it with NFC, particularly as they're not even removing Oyster) will line their own pockets.  And, of course, the pockets of the constantly-whinging, overpaid staff.

Finally, on an "also in the news..." style vein, can someone please explain to me the basis for this being a story?  While I don't doubt TfL Lost Property works hard, and while I agree these unclaimed toys are going to good use (though the partnering with the overtly religious - to the extent of not being above the occasional religious bigotry - charity the Salvation Army, rather than a more secular one is questionable in my book), why is it anything to shout about?  What were TfL doing with the toys before?  Destroying them?

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