Thursday, November 30, 2006

"Signal Systems Failure"

I'm sure there must be an industry for producing new excuses for poor service.

The Central Line was messed up last week because of a fun problem:

"the loading of new computer software containing London Underground's revised timetabling information caused a total breakdown of the systems at the start of service"

Rather than describe this as a "signalling problem" or "signal failure" (the usual excuses when signalling is implicated in train delays), London Underground used the phrase: "Signalling Systems Failure".

As I'm sure you will agree, this sounds far more serious and special than a routine signalling "problem".

So special, in fact, that like a highly contagious virus, the concept has spread far and wide.  It started to afflict the Circle and District line earlier this week (I heard delays on those lines attributed to it on my way home from work on Monday).  The excuse has now evolved further and has infected those who explain delays on our main lines.

According to the BBC,

"Thousands of rail passengers were stranded in London because of a signalling problem.

Services from St Pancras to the East Midlands were cancelled on Wednesday evening because of a systems failure in the Luton area."

They've tried to be clever and have separated the phrase "systems failure" from the word "signal" but we know what game they're playing...

Quite astonishing.   I'm quite sure we'll see statistics in a few months showing how routine "signalling problems" showed a sharp decline in the autumn, with a footnote in the report commenting on how some extraordinary "systems failures" occurred but shouldn't be counted as they were so special.

Watch this space...

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