I noticed something last week which stood out a bit, and it happened again today, so I dug into my archive to see when it happened.

What am I talking about?

The weekly emails from TfL warning of dire problems with the trains during the forthcoming weekend.

Last year, until about the middle of December, the email regularly stated fairly blandly, if totally accurately, that stations are closed or that there is no service on lengths of track.

Around Christmas time, this changed across the board to describing everything as an improvement.

Suddenly, they aren’t upgrading the signalling system, carrying out engineering works or rebuilding the station – everything is about improvements. Which is technically correct. But…

Firstly, I now have an email that repeats that single word “improve” so often that it is oddly irritating. I counted ten occurrences of “improve” in this week’s email. Small suggestion – get a Thesaurus and maybe use three or four variations. It’s not a crime to say “improving the station” and also say “upgrading the signalling system”. Most people understand that an upgrade is synonymous with an improvement. Usually.

Secondly, it would be nicer to include the reason for the improvement. Improving Farringdon Station doesn’t tell you what is happening. Is it Crossrail works, or something different. Most people are sufficiently curious about the transport network to be interested in knowing what is causing the closure. Knowing why a station/track is closed makes the inconvenience a bit more tolerable.

Incidentally, that linguistic complaint aside, the email is quite useful – even if it now arrives on a Thursday instead of Wednesday – and you can sign up for it here.


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  1. Phil Ruse says:

    I always found the automated voice at the train station irritating when saying “I’m sorry for”… They should have recorded someone crying at least.

  2. Kit Green says:

    The email is probably written (or is it totally automated, so comment applies to programmer) by someone with no understanding of rail infrastructure. That person is destined to go far in the TfL hierarchy.

    I have also noticed that the average depth of vocabulary decreases sharply with the number of years that anyone is younger than me! All part of the X Brother iCelebrity Dine Location “culture”.

  3. Gordon says:

    Politicians thrive on perpetual improvement…… what’s happening this May??

  4. Ian N says:

    It’s like how Vodafone’s useless customer services helpdesk now describes themselves as being “extremely popular today” when what they really mean is “complaints coming in way too fast to cope”. Nonsense marketing embellishment!

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