#270: Seat allocator

Waiting for the departures board at a railway station to flicker into life shouldn’t, on the face of it, be a stressful experience.

If you happen to be standing at Euston on a bank holiday weekend with about 100 other people (none of whom has a reserved seat for the same 400 mile journey) then the whole process takes on a certain urgency. Suddenly, when the board starts to indicate the crucial platform announcement, there is a very unBritish race to board (a cross between Chariots of Fire and A Night to Remember). Sad.

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This problem arises because train companies don’t recognise the difference between commuter trains (where no seats get reserved) and long distance ones, where standing for five or six hours isn’t practical. Existing ticket machines and kiosk personnel don’t deal with seating.

Today’s invention is intended to allow passengers, arriving for a long journey without tickets, to reserve seats when the departure of their choice first appears on the board. This might be made more costly for them than booking everything in advance or via the desk or machine (I’m assuming here that, in the not too distant future, rail companies will have fixed all their broken processes and websites to allow advance seat reservation and ticket purchase to be coordinated…hardly rocket science).

When the electronic board indicates that a particular train is scheduled for departure (perhaps an hour+ in advance), it also shows a phone number (which is different for every departure). People can, as they arrive at the station, text this number to purchase a ticket and and receive a seat reservation.

On boarding the train -calmly, the one-line electronic displays over each seat would say “Reserved for XXXX” -leaving no room for the squabbling which now occurs.

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