/ Travel & Leisure

Could this time change make train delays history?

Train delayed recently? Well delays will soon become a thing of the past (officially speaking that is). And it’s all thanks to a revolutionary new train station time zone.

Ever found yourself staring at a departure board telling you that your train is ‘on time’, yet you know damn well it’s not? In fact, it was supposed to depart five minutes ago and you’re just waiting around for the delay announcement.

Well today, with backing from the Department for Transport, train stations across the UK have agreed to introduce a new station time zone in a bid to reduce the number of delayed trains.

Once the new railway time is rolled out, trains will officially depart right on time, with the odd one or two running ahead of schedule.

Right on time

Railway time was first introduced by Great Western Railway in 1840 as a means of standardising times across all of their stations. Soon after, several other train companies adopted this method. And so in 1847 the Railway Clearing House adopted Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) as a countrywide standard time.

This new technical change will see railway stations across the UK modernise and adopt a new standardised approach to time, and so breaking the tradition of running station clocks running by GMT and British Summer Time.

Thomas Gordon, Knapford station manager and spokesman for the Right On Time project team, said:

‘This will clear up confusion for delayed passengers. It’s a simple solution that will relieve pressure for all of us. We anticipate reporting on its success come next year’s review by the rail regulator into train delays.

‘The bottom line is, if you think you’re delayed then check the station clock first.’

Once implemented, the minute you step foot in the train station your smartphone and smartwatches will automatically adjust to the new time zone, with the time changing to ensure your train is always on time. However, you’ll need to make sure you adjust any analogue or non-smartwatch to the station time.

Name game

Following in the footsteps of the National Environment Research Council’s public vote to name a new £200m research boat, currently BoatyMcBoatFace, the Right On Time project has also opened up a public vote to source the name for the new station time zone.

For those of you who’d like to cast your vote, you’ll need to first embark on a treasure hunt in search of the right form. The form will be cunningly hidden within the depths of your train operators’ website. Currently leading the way is Berwick-upon-Tweed Time, or BUTT.

The winning name will be announced on Wednesday 27 April ready for the new station time zone to be rolled out over the Bank Holiday weekend.

We’re not all that convinced by this new initiative, but only time will tell. So what do you think of this plan to launch a new train station time zone?


Thanks Lauren. This seems like a good way of keeping passengers happy and cutting down on compensation payments, which just push up prices for everyone. Perhaps it could be in place for the start of next April.

“Once the new railway time is rolled out, trains will officially depart right on time, with the odd one or two running ahead of schedule.” I’m not sure about trains running ahead of schedule. Is this some sort of joke?

Jane S says:
1 April 2016

Check the date!

This would certainly be welcomed by Southern Train passengers. I hope we see it implemented as part of the wider initiative to convert East Croydon station into an amusement park, without the rides.

Very in depth for an April Fools message 🙂

All aboard the new time change choo choo train that, love it or hate it, Mite get you to Mars by April 1st 2017. Beam me up Scotty might get you there slightly quicker though!

When teleporting becomes more popular, trains will become a thing of the past. Shouldn’t be more than a few years until late trains and compensation become a distant memory.

Like the acronym for the Right On Time group…

A train station time zone seems riddled with complications, why can’t they use the time set by the National Physical Laboratory. It is the time used in radio controlled watches and many organisations across the country. I fail to see how watches and smartphones will instantly adapt to in and if it is different from the time servers used by phone companies and atomic watches it will be difference from everywhere else.

Time, like crime, blights our lives. Who actually knows what a late train is? Why is it not the next train that is simply early? We are so judgmental. Just don’t go out, like me (I?) and lateness no longer is of any consequence.

By the way, if you choose to be carried on a train to your funeral (see parallel Convo) then pray (by proxy) it is late, and not only will you get some money back but you’ll be longer on this earth – good to have the last laugh over those grasping railwaymaniacs.

I had a strange time experience on the railways the other day. My train, which started at Liverpool Lime Street, arrived and departed on time at my nearest station for a thirty-mile non-stop journey to Norwich. Although it went at what I thought was the regular speed it arrived five minutes early and the conductress was so proud of this fact that she announced it three times over the PA system. Perhaps the man at the front had been pedalling extra hard and on that day there were no sheep or pheasants on the line for a change. But to gain five minutes on a thirty-minute journey shows how slack the timetables are [on that particular service at least].

I liked your potted history of railway time Lauren. When the Great Western Railway introduced standard time across their system [the furthest outposts of which were one hour behind London time] the trains carried clocks under the custody of the guards so that each intermediate station could set their station clocks [and signal boxes] to the correct time. As the electric telegraph progressed this took over from carrying clocks around but the station clocks were still manually wound and maintained at correct time. Once the railways brought Greenwich Mean Time to each town, time soon standardised itself as public clocks were adjusted to correspond with railway time. In my youth you could set your clock by the times of the trains they were that punctual.

Wavechange introduces the tantalising prospect of teleportation, experiments about which are being done on an increasingly large scale. If the current Chinese and Viennese experiments in photonic Quantum Teleportation can be scaled up then we could be witnessing a sea change in physical applications. When researchers quantum teleport a photon, they aren’t making it disappear and reappear like on Star Trek. Instead, the information contained in the photon’s quantum state is transmitted from one photon to another through quantum entanglement – without actually travelling the intervening distance. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that information is travelling instantaneously. That’s because the transfer of information occurs when the sender measures the quantum state of their photon. But that causes the receiver’s entangled photon to instantly change.

However, in order to understand the information, the receiver has to know what the original measurement was, along with some other instructions. Those instructions are sent via normal communications, which are limited to being no faster than the speed of light.

To all of this complexity, now add weather – over a large body of water, no less. You start to see the problem, because even the most focused lasers can experience a loss of signal when it passes through water, water vapor, etc. And right now, quantum teleportation is an extremely delicate process. Which makes both the Chinese and European researchers’ work – which use different methods – all the more impressive. The European experiment took place over the ocean, and the Chinese experiment crossed a lake.

In effect, it means that whatever changes are made to one of the pair of entangled photons those changes appear to occur simultaneously in the other, no matter where that other photon is located. In effect, the changes appear to happen faster than light can travel, which is the fascination for the scientists. For now it would seem to be ushering in a era of totally secure communications, but the possibilities – if it can all be understood and controlled – would appear to be offering a way to teleport matter.

I’m building a teleportation machine out of oak and mdf in my garage, but I am reminded of the film “The Fly” when the star of the film and, yes, a fly inadvertently combined during the experiment with horrific results. So a fly screen is a must.

The nearest the UK might get to teleportation is HS2, but given the UK’s poor reliablity record speeds achieved might well be less than expected.

However, I wonder what the purpose of teleportation might be? We seem obsessed with wanting to have a physical presence as quickly as possible elsewhere (although we manage quite well without Concorde). We have decent electronic communication – I can use Skype to see and talk to people in China; I can receive complex documents at the blink of an eye from anywhere (providing they have broadband); with a 3d printer I’ll even be able to make an object from instantly-imported electronic information. So why might teleportation be good for us? Getting a policeman to a scene of crime as it is being committed might be one use I suppose. But I reckon abduction and kidnapping would become boom crimes by intercepting the entangled particles.

(dictated by malcolm r and teleported in his absence 1/4/16)

Our policemen don’t need teleportation Malcolm. They have the long arm of the law which can reach into the most distant places with alacrity.

It may transport you to A&E in time to save your life Malcolm. The only means of being in two places at the same time is to reduce our bodies to its sub atomic level by transporting its superpositional electrons.

Time of course does not exist because it’s always the present, the past is a concept of your mind as is the future which never arrives as its always now.

Malcolm I once worked alongside and accountant who liked traffic jams and was in no hurry to go anywhere. . . .I admired his attitude and took a few leafs from his pages
Wish I had done so earlier in life because my health might be better for it

All too often our modern obsession with precise timing and punctuality leads to grumpy angry people or worse. The film “Clockwise” explores the idiocy of this in a masterful way.

In my Government service days I had a chum who paid little heed to compliance to his formal contracted hours of employment. I suspect he loved his work and put in far more hours than he was supposed to. But one of his favourite sayings was “Boss, sorry I’m late! Don’t worry – I’ll make up for it – I’ll go home early.”

What is this life if, full of care
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

William Henry Davies had it spot on. Just making time to do nothing but watch – whether fishing and catching zilch, looking round your garden and ignoring the weeds (and the little trees courtesy of the squirrel’s nuts), watching boats on the river, is so pleasurable. Sometimes we need to just stop the herd habit of rushing about and worrying about time – we seem to have been indoctrinated.

Which is why we enjoy train journeys when we can look out of the window without having to worry about traffic or other people, or just sit and think. But that is not good enough for many people who have to be engaged in something on their tablet or interrupting people with phone calls and searching for some new excitement on their device.

Perhaps, psychologically, it’s a question of whether we feel content to obviously have the time and capacity “to stand and stare”, or feel it is better to give the impression of being continuously active and in demand.

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The clock shown in the picture at the head of this Conversation is on a continental system, possibly Swiss railways, where timekeeping is based on 21st century precision rather than 19th century clockwork. No two digital clocks on Norwich station show exactly the same time as they are run from an office computer that appears to defy reconciliation with national standard time via the MSF signal broadcast from Anthorn.

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I’m confused… I already adjust my Smarphone clock with the network time automatically, so my time is always correct… are they saying that a similar system will be implemented to push their version of time onto my smarphone, e.g if in real time the train is scheduled for 9am but is delayed by 5 minutes (e.g 9:05am), will they adjust your Smartphone Clock to say is still 9am? Or are they saying that the station/train clocks will themselves start to be automatically adjusted like I already do with my Smartphone?

For this Conversation, Paul, as well as considering time you also need to look at the date.