One App to Rule Them All

One of my favourite (ish) Apple apps got updated last week.

When you’re on a train, or waiting for one, you need to know when it’s due, which platform it’s leaving from and if there are any delays on the route. And you need it to be presented clearly and simply.

That’s why I was so disappointed when Northern updated their app. It doesn’t show reasons for delays or any travel alerts any more, the tap area for each journey is much smaller and it doesn’t update when you drag the screen down. I’ve complained (er, provided feedback), so we’ll see if anything changes. Hate style over substance.

So I’ve stepped back to the TransPennine Express app, because it still does most of those things. There’s isn’t a Virgin Trains East Coast one, just the West Coast one… which is exactly the same as the new Northern one. But in red.

All the train operators have their own apps, because it’s the easiest way for them to sell tickets – the train running information is almost a secondary function. This is a nuisance because it’s very difficult to get that kind of timetabled and/or real-time information out of Network Rail or the train companies to do your own thing with. You thought it was publically available for use by anyone, in any way? Nope. Read the licences. The official Network Rail app isn’t great either.

One of the better website versions is Realtime Trains, especially the Advanced version, but their apps don’t seem to be available now which means web access only – tricky on a 4” screen.

If only there was a way to have one, comprehensive app… but what about ticket sales? Simples! You can only buy if you have an account, which would have to be the same account you use when buying tickets through the website of the operator you choose. Unlike what happens now, where tickets bought through operators’ websites don’t show up on the mobile apps, and vice versa (and which is a whole different level of pain – and don’t get me started on their being no smart card or mobile-friendly version of my season ticket).

I commend the idea to the house. It’ll never happen, but I commend the idea anyway.

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