Trains Disrupted Due To Wrong Kind Of Signal From Space

By M@ Last edited 111 months ago
Trains Disrupted Due To Wrong Kind Of Signal From Space

All I wanna do is get off...

Dodgy power lines are one thing, but who would credit that GPS problems could stymie a rail service? That's what happened on a Southern Railways train through East Croydon recently. A defective satnav prevented the train from stopping at six stations on its route down to Caterham in Surrey, causing significant inconvenience for passengers who rather fancied getting off.

According to a spokesman for Southern:

A lot of our trains have GPS which recognises where the train is and allows it to open the doors at the station, depending on the length of the train and the length of the platform. Doors can be opened manually in an emergency but we would not recommend it at other times.

What kind over crazy, overcomplicated world have we built for ourselves when trains need to send and receive signals from outer space in order to open a few doors? And does it work the other way round? Was the Beagle 2 Mars mission lost thanks to a problem with the electronic reservation system on the 08:15 to East Grinstead? Questions must be asked. If only a dodgy satnav had caused today's disruption in north London; we could have dusted off the old 'Euston, we have a problem' headline.

Image from Chutney Bannister's Flickr photostream.

Last Updated 07 January 2009

Mr Thant

The system is to make sure the drivers don't opening doors on the wrong side, or the wrong number of doors on stations with short platforms. Because they do this often enough that if it were manual they'd fuck up and sooner or later someone would get killed. Hilarious.

(the number of devices fitted to the average train that are there solely to prevent simple human error that's killed people in the past is mind boggling)

Modern trains have GPS integrated into the onboard computer system anyway, to trigger the automatic announcements.

(And also, while we're being pedantic, GPS receivers are purely passive. They don't transmit anything, they just receive broadcast signals)