This is all Guy Clapperton?s fault. If it wasn?t for him I wouldn?t be here watching an American woman two seats in front of me pointing a video camera at her family and loudly intoning: ?Here we are on a train to Liverpool.? She is swinging the camera around her brood. ?This is Cary and Farrah,? she says as loud as only an American tourist can. Meanwhile I?m looking for somewhere to hide. If it wasn?t for Clapperton, I wouldn?t be in the middle of this. I would still be at Euston station.
It starts like this: Guy Knows About Things ? one very good reason for having him write for PC Dealer of course ? and because he Knows About Things, it came as no surprise that he knew about getting train times off the internet (look, I never said he wasn?t sad). Although I have to say here, just to be perfectly fair, Guy didn?t make me miss my train, he effectively made me get on the next one, the one with the tourists.
For reasons beyond comprehension Clapperton had emailed me the address of the Railtrack Web site (http://www.railtrack.co.uk/travel/). I knew I was going to Manchester, so I checked out my journey. On the site you enter your destination, the station you are leaving from, the day you want to travel and the time you want to leave or arrive. You press enter, it goes away and calculates the journey for you.
Unfortunately it didn?t help me right away. Cad that I am, I had spelt Manchester Piccadilly with just one ?c?, which was enough to bring the system to its knees. Now, anyone that knows me will know that spelling is not what I was sent to this planet to do, and even though I?m not quite sure what I was sent to this planet to do, I?d like to apologise anyway. So, here I am struggling with the Railtrack Web page in an attempt to get it to give me some train times. After I had added the missing ?c? I got the train times I wanted.
After it told me that the trains leave Euston on the hour and arrive two-and-a-half hours later, it also told me that there was a Liverpool service leaving at 09:05 that went through Crewe, where I could change to another Manchester-bound service. Obviously I dismissed this information because I wasn?t going to be late for the 09:00 train. Late, me?
So, here I was buying my ticket for a 09:00 train at 09:01 (maybe I have just discovered what I was sent to this planet to be). I knew I had missed my train, so I asked the man in the ticket office when the next train was. He said 10 o?clock. But, I persisted, isn?t there one where you change at Crewe or something? He smiled that smile he obviously reserves for congenital idiots and said: ?No, it?s direct, at 10.?
Despondent, I went to the information desk and asked there. After much flicking of well-worn pages, the man said: ?I?ve some good news and some bad news. Yes there is a train and it leaves at 09:05, but the bad news is it is now 09:06.? Smug git.
To cut a long story short, the 09:05 was still there (well done for being late Virgin Rail), and that?s where I am at this moment. Well, of course, not this moment as you read, this moment as I write ? unless, of course, you are Mr Big Nose sitting next to me reading over my shoulder.
The issue is that the Railtrack Web page is obviously a great tool for users, you don?t have to be a sad anorak or a porn hunter to find it useful. So it is amazing that it is such utter rubbish. Not only does the page have what looks like a word wrap problem that makes understanding it a touch difficult, but it also can?t help should you slightly misspell the location ? you may be able to spell Abergavenny, but I sure as hell can?t.
Similarly, you have to put the station you are leaving from. If you have never been to Manchester from London, would you know it was Euston? Why couldn?t the Web page have some spelling help and maybe a page that lists the stations that serve parts of the country?
But fundamentally and, in my opinion, unforgivably, the page with the results of your journey search tells you: ?There may be other services between these stations provided by other train operators.?
So now it is telling me that it might not be the information I want. I don?t care if there are lots of different operators, if people are going to give information on their Web page it should be full and useful ? if it isn?t, it shouldn?t be there. On the stupidometer this is right up there with the handful of computer firms that don?t publish their phone numbers on their Web site. Why is this so difficult to remember?
Right ? anyone else I find doing a crap job on their Web page, I?m gonna send Clapperton round to sort them out, and boy are they going to be sorry.
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