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My review of the UK Train Times iPhone app

Imagine you are at a train station without any visual assistance. You cannot read the departure board so you cannot tell on which platform the next train to Edinburgh departs. Maybe you are in a car headed towards a train station and you need to know the time of the next train home. Maybe you just need to plan a simple journey and just want to know the times of available trains meeting your requirements.

The UK Train Times iPhone app (costing £4.99 from the iTunes Store will give you all of these things and more. Completely accessible from a VoiceOver standpoint, it presents you with a simple interface which can deliver to you everything you need to know about UK rail travel.

The app contains:

  • Powerful real-time journey planner for single or return journeys across the National Rail network, with departure platform information (where available).
  • Next Train Home’ feature automatically finds your nearest station and plans your journey home.
  • If you’re searching for trains today, you’ll be told about any delays or cancellations to your chosen trains and given the option to find alternative journeys.
  • Live departures and arrivals at all National Rail stations, with platform information (where available) and live train progress.
  • Add multiple stations to the app’s Home Screen for one-touch access to their live departures. Simply choose a station in ‘Live Departures & Arrivals’ and hit ‘Save’ to create a new favourite.

From a voiceOver perspective, the app is as good as it could be. Let me walk you through the simple exercise of looking up the times of a journey from Cardiff Central to Sandwell and Dudley.

  • From the home screen, select the "Plan a Journey" button.
  • Tap "Departure Station".
  • You are presented with an alphabetical list of stations from which you can choose since each one is represented by a button. However, to narrow the results we will tap the "Station Name" search field.
  • Type "Cardiff" and note that by flicking (or arrowing right on a keyboard) you see two stations: "Cardiff Bay" and "Cardiff Central". Double tap on "Cardiff Central".
  • You can now observe that the screen says "departure station, Cardiff Central". Select the next button which is "Destination Station".
  • Again, double tap the "Search" field and type "Sandwell". Jus flicking to the right will give you are required station, "Sandwell and Dudley". Double tap.
  • You are now presented with two buttons, "Via", and, "Swap departure and destination stations", neither of which we want at the moment. However if you wanted your journey to be routed by a particular station, you could specify that under the "Via" section.
  • Select the "Departing" tab.
  • Buttons are now available for "Outward journey departure time" (which is currently set to "Departing now". This would look up the next available train if you hit the "Find Trains" button, see below). You also have on this screen "Add Return Journey", "Add to Favourites" (if you would like to refer to this route again later) and "Find Trains" (we'll come back to this one in a moment).
  • Selecting "Outward journey departure time" allows us to select the travelling date together with the hours and minutes of the time we wish to travel via four picker items. At the end of the screen is a button labelled "Done" which of course you activate when complete.
  • Select "Done", then select "Find Trains". The results are brought back to you.
    The results are spoken in this way: "Departing tomorrow at 11.30 A M heading", "11.45, changing once from Cardiff Central, scheduled to arrive at Sandwell and Dudley at 14.13 button". This indicates to you that a lot of thought has been put into the language of the interface. It is very user friendly particularly with VoiceOver.
    Buttons are available at this point containing details of alternative trains you may care to use. Double tapping any one of the train schedules will give you more information about it, such as the details of all the trains required for the journey, platform numbers, the train provider. For example, VoiceOver would tell you "11.45 from Cardiff Central, platform 1, scheduled to arrive at Birmingham New Street at 1.45, Crosscountry Service to Nottingham". This latter item is quite useful as it tells you where the train is bound for past your stopping point, which is Birmingham on the first leg. Then VoiceOver continues: "14.05 from Birmingham New Street, platform 6B, scheduled to arrive at 14.15, London Midland service to Shrewsbury.

So as you can see, it is very easy to look up train times but more importantly, the results table and further details are presented in a way which many users will be easily able to understand. To reiterate, live departure boards are available. So if you are waiting for a train and there are no station announcements to let you know how late it may be running, this app should be able to tell you, or maybe you are travelling to a station and you would like to know if your train is scheduled to be on time, again your iPhone with this app is your friend.

In summary, while I have only used this app for a few days I can see how helpful it is going to be for me in many ways and I would highly recommend it. Whether you take the occasional train journey or (if like me) you are a visually impaired seasoned rail travleller, you will not be disappointed.

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