New Adventures travel blog


The Ministry of Crap Design – Part Two

Some of you may remember me explaining the influence of The Ministry of Crap Design and the man in the cardigan who changed the thickness of the New Pound coins so that they would not fit in the coin slots at Laundromats. Well he is alive and well and now works in a new department responsible for the rail ticketing system.

It has always been a interesting comparison as we have travelled around to compare how different countries manage their mass transport systems. Some countries have managed to span the language differences and present the visitor with clear and simple ticketing systems. Other places like Melbourne modify, at great cost, perfectly functioning systems till they become a trial for visitors and inmates alike. But I digress.

The Ministry of Crap Design influence on the British rail ticketing system became apparent on our recent trip from Leeds.

At the entrance to the station stand the ticketing machines, well lit and out of the main thoroughfare. Both ticketing and the credit card screens are both placed at a sensible viewing height. Unlike Melbourne Myki units that are placed so low down that those people who wear Bi Focal glasses (who surely outnumber the unfortunate few confined to wheelchairs) have to kneel on the ground to read the screens.

The instruction were very clear: “Destination”, “Peak or Off Peak”, “Single or Return” and “Number of Tickets”. The bit to remember here is “Number of Tickets”, the answer to which is two. Because I am going along to carry the bags and wait outside the ladies change room as part of the shopping experience.

Fill in the screen, put in the credit card and pay the £10. After a bit of printing noise the tickets dropped into the tray. We are good to go.

The station is guarded by the usual row of electronic, ticket operated gates. Put in the ticket and without fuss it appeared out the top of the unit and the gates opened. Well they did for me. Sue put her ticket in and it just popped out, turned it around and tried again, no joy. “You’ve got it upside down” was my contribution to the problem. No it still wouldn’t work.

Finally one of the “High Vis” attendants got bored with watching our fumbling and waved his master control at the gate and our temporary separation was ended.

At this point the first indications that The Ministry of Crap Design had some influence became apparent. Nothing on the ticket tells you which train to get on, just where to get off. The same level of information is present on the illuminated signs.

Never min,d another “High Vis” pointed out the correct platform. The train arrive on time and off we went both happy with the electronic ticketing service.

Until the ticketing inspector approached and I gave him our two tickets. “Where’s the other two” has asked. Two people = Two tickets…. Me no understand?

The man in the cardigan struck.

The ticketing machine doesn’t actually print “Return Tickets”. It prints one ticket to go to your destination and another one for the return journey to go back. And it won’t let you in the station with the wrong ticket………

Yes I had left the other pair of tickets in the machine…. What a great (crap) design



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