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What is the actual issue with the Irish Rail seat reservations system

  • 30-05-2019 4:28pm
    #1
    Registered Users Posts: 2,861 ✭✭✭ techdiver
    Registered User


    Hi,

    Does anyone know here what the details of the implementation of the seat reservations system for Irish Rail trains? It seems, for want of a better description, utter crap.

    It is a complete lottery as to whether names are actually displayed over seats. This is a major annoyance for me as a regular commuter as I take the time to turn up in time to secure a seat on a busy service, being careful not to sit in a reserved seat. The issue arises on regular occasions that despite no names being displayed over seats I am still sitting in a reserved seat. Of course people who reserve seats tend to turn up at the last second and that leaves me standing as no other seats are available. I have also noticed names appearing randomly during a journey after already having left Connolly etc.

    So what is the problem with the system? Is it automated (if it is it's incredibly fragile) or does it require manual input at the station (wtf if so)? Seat reservations have been available on these new sets for 10+ years now and the system is still no better. What are the technical barriers that prevent Irish Rail from fixing this?


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Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,623 ✭✭✭ GarIT
    Registered User


    I heard before that the file containing booked seats has to be manually transferred by a USB key or similar from an internet connected computer in the station to the computer on the train.

    The trains aren't anywhere near new or modern and would cost 100,000s to upgrade.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,971 ✭✭✭ bobbyss
    Registered User


    What about doing this and forget about those signs over seats.

    Can this be done If you have a reservation made then get a printed paper showing train time, destination, carraige number, seat number etc. In other words something to show that THAT seat is yours at that time then If someone is sitting in THAT seat thry have to move.
    No need for faulty signs


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,578 ✭✭✭ DesperateDan
    Registered User


    There was a written rule on the website that says if you ain't in your reserved seat 20 mins before departure it's fair game. Try telling that to the person that reserved though :D


  • Registered Users Posts: 15,392 ✭✭✭✭ Spanish Eyes
    Registered User


    The Enterprise seems to be able to display seat reservations and non reserved seats on boarding. Maybe that is because passengers are corralled (in Connolly anway) until the doors open so there is time to plug in the information or something.

    Other inter city services, not so much. Is the Enterprise a different type train to others in IR? Or is it the cross border element that keeps it in line or what?

    I don't trust seat reservations at all. The only thing you can do is to get there early, board early and take your reserved seat whether the sign is turned on or not. Kind of defeats the purpose of reserving a seat though!


  • Registered Users Posts: 12,363 ✭✭✭✭ Del.Monte
    Registered User


    How about reinventing the wheel and going back to paper reservation stickers on seat enforced by train hosts which IE are now bringing back? All this electronic bs counts for nothing if there's no official there to enforce it.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 36,084 ✭✭✭✭ ED E
    Registered User


    This was posted before, I believe it was Jamie2K9, will try and find it.


    Train is started up, pulls a manifest from IR HQ. Names display. For whatever reason the driver shuts down for a sec, power is lost. Starts again, blank displays. It doesn't pull the manifest again.


  • Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators Posts: 11,286 Mod ✭✭✭✭ devnull
    Moderator


    Other inter city services, not so much. Is the Enterprise a different type train to others in IR? Or is it the cross border element that keeps it in line or what?

    I don't trust seat reservations at all. The only thing you can do is to get there early, board early and take your reserved seat whether the sign is turned on or not. Kind of defeats the purpose of reserving a seat though!

    System on the Enterprise is a more modern system by a different and well regarded company, Televic, who also supplied the passenger information system for the 8100 DART series and many other major rolling stock projects around the world.

    https://www.televic-rail.com/en/references


  • Registered Users Posts: 24,647 ✭✭✭✭ coylemj
    Registered User


    How about they let you book a ticket online but let you decline an allocated seat? I can do without the hassle of asking someone to get out of a seat that has been allocated to me. But neither do I want a seat left empty because my name is above it and I couldn't be bothered looking for it.


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,484 ✭✭✭✭ Jamie2k9
    Registered User


    It's working better than ever now.
    This was posted before, I believe it was Jamie2K9, will try and find it.

    Train is started up, pulls a manifest from IR HQ. Names display. For whatever reason the driver shuts down for a sec, power is lost. Starts again, blank displays. It doesn't pull the manifest again.

    Switching ends even if power not cut makes it disappear for certain drivers.

    Not having the PA system at stations such as Kilkenny or Killarney making the announcement at the platform in Irish/English will wipe them as once the driver moves ends they will say Kilkenny in Irish/English and once that happens names go and take another 30-60 minutes to load depending on internet and how full the train is.

    It's got to a stage I can tell what drivers will mess it up!


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,017 ✭✭✭ Hilly Bill
    Registered User


    GarIT wrote: »
    I heard before that the file containing booked seats has to be manually transferred by a USB key or similar from an internet connected computer in the station to the computer on the train.

    The trains aren't anywhere near new or modern and would cost 100,000s to upgrade.

    That's only a back up. The names should come up via WiFi once the train id is entered. If its failed then it gets logged and the set looked at.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 6,017 ✭✭✭ Hilly Bill
    Registered User


    bobbyss wrote: »
    What about doing this and forget about those signs over seats.

    Can this be done If you have a reservation made then get a printed paper showing train time, destination, carraige number, seat number etc. In other words something to show that THAT seat is yours at that time then If someone is sitting in THAT seat thry have to move.
    No need for faulty signs

    It's on your ticket.


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,017 ✭✭✭ Hilly Bill
    Registered User


    There was a written rule on the website that says if you ain't in your reserved seat 20 mins before departure it's fair game. Try telling that to the person that reserved though :D

    Not realistic though.


  • Registered Users Posts: 311 ✭✭ grimbergen
    Registered User


    I've travelled a good few times lately on Cork line in particular and it's always worked to be fair.


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,329 ✭✭✭ Polar101
    Registered User


    The last time I was on the Cork - Dublin train, the reservations were displayed, but they were off by one carriage. So if you had reserved E53, it was displaying in D53. According to the 'conductor' (or whatever you call the train host these days), it happened in Mallow and he couldn't do anything about it.

    Any idea how that happened?


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,017 ✭✭✭ Hilly Bill
    Registered User


    Polar101 wrote: »
    The last time I was on the Cork - Dublin train, the reservations were displayed, but they were off by one carriage. So if you had reserved E53, it was displaying in D53. According to the 'conductor' (or whatever you call the train host these days), it happened in Mallow and he couldn't do anything about it.

    Any idea how that happened?

    That's a strange one alright.


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,663 ✭✭✭ trellheim
    Registered User


    How to solve

    1) Assign the problem to three or four University IT final year students as their end of year practical problem ;

    goals are to drive reliability and correctness to 99.5% or whatever, and have a bake-off at the end between the four of them. Its not safety critical infrastructure

    I guarantee you things will improve

    Solutions e,g raspberry PI, python, 3g SIM, wifi and code up a quick interface to the res system that checks every few mins its in the right place and the set is going in the right direction


  • Registered Users Posts: 167 ✭✭ Jem72
    Registered User


    coylemj wrote: »
    How about they let you book a ticket online but let you decline an allocated seat? I can do without the hassle of asking someone to get out of a seat that has been allocated to me. But neither do I want a seat left empty because my name is above it and I couldn't be bothered looking for it.

    I agree entirely with this. Personally I can't be bothered with a booked seat as I like to be able to choose a seat in a specific carriage facing a particular direction and often take a different train to the one I've booked anyway. And I suspect at least 50% of people buying on-line simply don't care about booking.

    The obvious solution to the musical chairs problem is to corral all the bookings in to one or two carriages and mark the carriages as reserved. If they fill up, have the system unlock another carriage.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,515 ✭✭✭ Genghis
    Registered User


    Then there is the problem with passengers not taking their reserved seat.

    Seats display names, but reserved passenger boards and I presume either sits anywhere else, or hasn't shown up.

    Unreserved passengers on a full train stand while the reserved seat is unoccupied.

    On a full train where I am left standing I will occupy any reserved seat the second a train departs.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,398 ✭✭✭ JayRoc
    Registered User


    Jem72 wrote: »
    I agree entirely with this. Personally I can't be bothered with a booked seat as I like to be able to choose a seat in a specific carriage facing a particular direction and often take a different train to the one I've booked anyway. And I suspect at least 50% of people buying on-line simply don't care about booking.

    The obvious solution to the musical chairs problem is to corral all the bookings in to one or two carriages and mark the carriages as reserved. If they fill up, have the system unlock another carriage.

    Exactly the same for me.

    I tend to travel at times that are a little quieter anyway. And obviously I'm not going to sit crammed in with 3 other people just because I was assigned that seat during booking, when I can sit on my own in comfort.


    Tbh I very rarely take the seat that has been booked for me. I turn up in good time and choose one I like.


  • Registered Users Posts: 13,766 ✭✭✭✭ Beechwoodspark
    Registered User


    I’ve noticed that often there are displays saying someone has booked a seat but that person never arrives


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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,398 ✭✭✭ JayRoc
    Registered User


    I’ve noticed that often there are displays saying someone has booked a seat but that person never arrives

    Someone earlier mentioned flexible and semi flexible tickets, I would think this also causes a large number of bookings to go unused.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,098 ✭✭✭ ectoraige
    Registered User


    Are flexible tickets part of the problem?

    You can book a seat on, say, a 5pm train but travel on the 4pm train instead. Your ticket will still have the reserved seat no. printed on it so you could boot people from the seat if they don't notice that it's for a different time.

    Meanwhile, on the 5pm train your seat is left empty with your name over it.

    There doesn't seem to be a mechanism to handle this, is there?


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,098 ✭✭✭ boombang
    Registered User


    Ideally the system on the train would be fixed.

    Short of that, an app/webpage based system that could be updated in real time would allow people check if a seat is booked. This would also allow people to unreserve a seat that they don't take.

    Some will whinge that not everybody has a smartphone, which is true. However, why not have a system that the 90% of people who do have a smartphone use? A team of young scientists could do this.


  • Registered Users Posts: 18,052 ✭✭✭✭ Del2005
    Registered User


    boombang wrote: »
    Ideally the system on the train would be fixed.

    Short of that, an app/webpage based system that could be updated in real time would allow people check if a seat is booked. This would also allow people to unreserve a seat that they don't take.

    Some will whinge that not everybody has a smartphone, which is true. However, why not have a system that the 90% of people who do have a smartphone use? A team of young scientists could do this.

    There's no need for an app they just need to make the system they have better. The issue is with the back end anyway not the display. So an app will just move the problem not fix it.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,098 ✭✭✭ boombang
    Registered User


    Del2005 wrote: »
    There's no need for an app they just need to make the system they have better. The issue is with the back end anyway not the display. So an app will just move the problem not fix it.

    If the problem is with the backend as you say, then my suggestion indeed won't work. From the sounds of some of the other posts people indicate that some of the problems aren't purely backend (they could be wrong of course).

    A web interface would at least allow somebody to check with a passenger do they intend to take their seat or not.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,374 ✭✭✭ sitstill
    Registered User


    I was on the Enterprise out of Dublin twice over the last month and on both times, the seat reservations weren’t working. Is there some fault/issue on those trains too?


  • Registered Users Posts: 18,052 ✭✭✭✭ Del2005
    Registered User


    boombang wrote: »

    A web interface would at least allow somebody to check with a passenger do they intend to take their seat or not.

    According to the terms of the allocated seat ticket you have to be in the seat 20 minutes before departure. So if someone is sitting in a seat its either the person who reserved it or not.

    What they could do is say the seat is reserved from X station for Y, so that you can know if the seat is free to use or not. This can be done on the train with zero need for an app or wedsite. IIRC I saw that on a train in England and took a seat reserved after the station we were getting off.


  • Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators Posts: 11,286 Mod ✭✭✭✭ devnull
    Moderator


    sitstill wrote: »
    I was on the Enterprise out of Dublin twice over the last month and on both times, the seat reservations weren’t working. Is there some fault/issue on those trains too?

    Different system by a different vendor to the other Irish Rail stuff.

    Should be more reliable really and not have the same issues, the company who provided it are one of the best known for systems of their kind around the world.

    Would be curious if the Enterprise issues are focused mostly on sets worked by Irish Rail or Translink staff.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,059 ✭✭✭ Emme
    Registered User


    Get people to pay €5 or €10 extra to book a seat. Then there will be no problems with people turning up for their seats. Irish Rail can use that money to employ somebody to go around the train with signs to place on the seats stating that they are booked. Win win.


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  • Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators Posts: 11,286 Mod ✭✭✭✭ devnull
    Moderator


    Emme wrote: »
    Get people to pay €5 or €10 extra to book a seat. Then there will be no problems with people turning up for their seats. Irish Rail can use that money to employ somebody to go around the train with signs to place on the seats stating that they are booked. Win win.

    To be honest, whilst in theory it should all work fine and dandy, I can't see someone going round and doing that without a pay rise in exchange for it and it won't be sustainable to employ someone to just do that.

    Realistically though with the amount of trouble that Irish Rail have with passenger information systems at stations and on trains, seat reservations, ticket machines etc, one has to ask the question if it is not always equipment that is at fault.


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