Thomas (boggyb) wrote,

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Southern FAILS at usability

A while back I ranted at Southern (a UK train operator) for having taken a perfectly good online ticketing system and replacing it with a shiny new version that's useless for anything where you don't already know precisely what ticket you want to get.

I was particularly annoyed at the time, and after listing a bunch of usability fails I ended the email with:

... Seriously, the National Rail planner is more useful than this!

Since the new site is massively lacking in features and usability, I would like to know if the old journey planner (which could do everything I described above quickly and easily) is available for use? Failing that, do you know of any other train operators or ticket sites that use the same journey planner software that you used to have?

Anyway, they did actually reply to that last year and said...

I am very sorry to hear that you are experiencing difficulties planning future journeys.

Please be advised that we are experiencing some issues with our new website, one of them being the journey planning facility of which you have so highlighted.

Following this statement, we are currently working as hard and as fast as we can to ensure that this issue is rectified as we understand and appreciate that this plays a key part in booking your tickets.

I apologise that I have not been able to help you in full on this occasion, and we appreciate your patience in this matter.

...which to me reads as meaningless marketing double-speak. Certainly they don't seem to have changed it as all the usability issues I told them about are still present! To be honest I didn't really expect anything out of it, though I have been surprised before - a mini-rant I once sent to my bank (which may have included the phrase "blatant lies" in relation to branch opening hours on their website) resulted in a long letter that can be summed up as "well, we've investigated and are pretty sure that our website was right... but we're only pretty sure as we were upgrading the site at the time, so have some compensation anyway in case we were wrong".

Anyway, since Southern's customer service department failed to actually do anything constructive and now Southeastern has also downgraded their journey planner, I did some searching. And it turns out that GWR (which is what First Great Western call themselves these days) are smart and still use the old software package. So if you want to actually plan a train journey, go to GWR's site (who will quite happily sell you tickets for Southern trains!).

Perhaps I should email Southern again and point out that their competitor has a better journey planner...


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