Simple Service Design

When you think about rail services (especially the ones in the UK) a common problematic theme springs to mind. Time or punctuality seems to be the hardest attribute to get right and thus the common problem theme. Our trains (in the UK) are notoriously late and delays inevitable. If an rail operator like Southern Trains can get its timing perfected or at least improved then an element of its service design is achieved right?

If you can synchronise the controllers of its service then you head one step closer to this goal. If all its on-board conductors work off the same time then there are no individual excuses. “My watch is five minutes late“, “my watch is the synch’d with BBC time“, etc… every conductor having their own time system and subsequent time issues ensues.

So, how does a railway operator like Southern Trains ensure its entire operating workforce works off synchronised timing? Simple, every conductor in its operating work force – conductors actually on the trains – are issued with a satellite/radio frequency controlled and adjusted wrist watch.

I was given a demo by an on-board instructor this morning. He showed me how by depressing a button the second hand moves around the clock face to position 12, pauses for 5 secs while it locates the universal time signal, and finally adjusts the time. There is of course a few issues with this system. One I can think of is it relies on the user to re-sync manually. An periodic self-syncing system might be a better option?

Some of the advantages of this system I’ve identified are:

1. Train despatch times are synchronised
2. Train times are consistent
3. Conductor employees receive a perk (useful item of clothing issue)
4. Marketing exercise through branded design

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