How can you design a train with so many mistakes?

For my sins I spend around 15 hours a week commuting on the Thameslink line between London and Brighton.

Since the franchise passed to Govia, we have been promised new trains. It now appears we have them. I have got on new rolling stock twice today and my bewilderment over the things that appear to be wrong has only increased.

The good points

I should acknowledge some improvements. The on board electronic information (see main photo) is much better and clearer, including details on how busy carriages are and whether the on board toilets are working.

The awkward interconnecting doors have largely been removed. They were rubbish and broke continually. 

What isn’t so good?

In two journeys, this is what I’ve noticed so far.

1) The number of seats has been reduced. This seems like an enormous issue. The trains may now be 12 coaches long, but giving people more room in which to stand isn’t exactly a progressive move.

Given the frequency with which coaches seem to break I can’t see 12 coach trains being constant. 

2) There are no arm-rests. If you cut the number of seats you could at least make it comfy for those who aren’t standing. But no. Anyone with an oversized rear end or sharp elbows will make their companion very uncomfortable,

Is this really such a cost-saving against passenger comfort?

3) No increase in baggage storage. The Thameslink line travels to 2 of the country’s biggest airports: Gatwick and Luton. Lots of people use the train to get to and from these airports and travel with large suitcases. 

There never used to be adequate space to stow this luggage. There still isn’t. A massive oversight

New train4) Tables and seat back trays removed. These are commuter trains. People spend hours on them (see para 1). This means they want to work to make the most of their time. 

They will now have to awkwardly balance their laptop on their knees (yes, I know it’s called a ‘lap’top for a reason),  which isn’t hugely comfortable. 

5) No charging points. Intermediate rolling stock had plug sockets to allow phone/laptop charging. No more!

I tweeted this oversight and received this reply from @TLRailUK 

Why would you build something without and then be forced to add afterwards?

Where are the user needs in all of this?

When you design a new product, you ask what customers want! In a commuter train, you’d be looking for comfort, useful functionality, seats… you get my drift?

I get the impression these new trains have been designed with not a single piece of customer feedback. 

I pay Govia in excess of  £4k a year to use their trains. The least they could do is solicit opinons from me (or people like me). 

Prove me wrong Govia, or at the very least show me what audience research you did.

Leaders and their resistance to stress

Arsenal manager Arsene WengerI recently read Alastair Campbell’s excellent book Winners: And How They Succeed. Among many pearls of wisdom that Campbell gets from a variety of people in the public – many of which I want to share at a later date – is the following from Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger

We have gone from a vertical society to a horizontal society where everybody has an opinion about every decision you make, everybody has an opinion on the Internet straight away.
Basically the respect for people who make decisions is gone because every decision is questioned. So one of the most important qualities of a good leader now is massive resistance to stress.
Under stress you become smaller and smaller until you cannot give out a message any more and that, of course, is something that is vital. Many people underestimate this challenge.

Wenger instantly puts his finger on why being a leader in the 21st century is so much more difficult than it used to be.

We invite feedback from all quarters. We’re asked to be open. Everyone should be allowed their say.

Respect – which is always a tough thing to achieve at the best of times – has gone out of the window for all but the select few.

The science behind resilience and the importance of it is slowly becoming more widely recognised and – if Wenger’s experience is anything to go by – needs to be placed higher up the list of qualities for leaders to develop.

Winners: And How They Succeed is definitely worth a read: a genuinely fascinating insight into people at the top of their game.

Is Facebook starting to bite the hand that feeds?

Facebook logoOn Wednesday 29th June, Facebook announced a major change to its algorithm. Detailed in a blog post, the VP of Product Management Adam Mosseri said:

“Today, we’re announcing an update to News Feed that helps you see more posts from your friends and family”

Most people would find it hard to disagree with that notion. After all, Facebook is where we go to catch up on friends’ baby news, gnash teeth at colleagues’ holiday photos or share a picture with our relatives. Why wouldn’t we want an improvement on that?

The algorithm change comes at the expense of brands, however. Concerned that people are bombarded with too much branded content, Facebook has decided to make it more difficult for you to see it.

For the general punter that’s great, but for people who work in social media for a living and have to get their posts onto people’s radars, it’s a nightmare. Continue reading