Duplication on the Twitter rails

Posted on 28 June 2012 in Internet, Transport (No comments yet - be the first!)

Ulvertson Train Station

There are many people in Britain who think that rail privatisation has been costly and has ended up with pointless duplication. Not everyone will believe that but take a glance at Twitter to see a prime example.

As I type there's significant disruption on the railways due to flooding in the north of England. As I type, the east and west coast mainlines are both shut, and the evening sleeper trains apparently cancelled. There's no replacement transport in most cases as road conditions are too bad for the coaches to run. East Coast, Virgin Trains, Transpennine Express, Scotrail and Northern Rail are all affected.

With all that, some people are heading to Twitter to get information. So important is this method of communication that BBC News even did a report on it.

But which Twitter account? For for most of Britain's rail companies, there's two to choose from. For example, if you're travelling with Virgin, you get the choice of @virgintrains or @NRE_virgin.

The differences?

  1. One works during the day (@virgintrains), the other is 24/7 (@NRE_Virgin).
  2. One is run directly by Virgin Trains (that'll be @virgintrains) and the other is run by National Rail Enquiries (@NRE_Virgin) who are, of course, the official central body handing rail enquiries in the UK
  3. One has 19,370 followers (@virgintrains), the other has a mere 3,975 (@NRE_Virgin).

To show I'm not picking on Virgin here, it's a similar case with most UK train companies. There's @scotrail and @nre_scotrail. There's @northernrailorg and @nre_northern. And there's @sw_trains and @nre_swt. And probably countless more examples. It's not universal - East Coast doesn't have their own Twitter feed for example - but many other companies do.

Of course looking at the above you'll probably spot a flaw. The Twitter account that most people are likely to follow will be the company-owned one, not the National Rail Enquires one. Yet it's not the company-owned that has the 24/7 service and will be the most useful for many people.

So here's an idea. It's radical I am sure you'll agree. Why not combine them?

Well probably because in the mess that is our privatised rail system, that would be all far, far too simple.

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