Train Information System Usability

If I was deaf I'd probably be in Portsmouth by now.

Returning from a client meeting I was enjoying the pleasures of Clapham Junction. The electronic signs informed me that the first train would be to Chichester and the second was to my destination, Brighton.

Time passed… a train came and left while I was on the phone. Looking up I saw that the boards hadn't changed… the Chichester and Brighton trains were still up there looking rather late. You know how it goes:

14:28  Chichester  expected 14:35
14:32  Brighton    expected 14:38

Time 14:41

Then an announcement:

“Customers are advised to ignore the electronic information board as the information displayed is incorred. This is due to a software fault.”

The message is repeated several times over the next five minutes. So what exactly is the next train? Finally we're told it's one to Eastbourne… so I missed my train. Great.

The Eastbourne train pulls up, it's own electronic destination signs proudly showing “00 Victoria” – so where was it going? A voice echoes on the PA reasuring us of the destination. I step on in the hope that it really will stop at Haywards Heath so I can change.

If I hadn't heard any of the announcements then I would have been well and truly stuffed. If you're blind people notice and try to help, but at least you can hear announcements.

If you're deaf it's hard for the hearing to tell so you just look around and use your wits and hope there isn't a software fault.