[TUHS] OT: trains [Was: Date madness]

Norman Wilson norman at oclsc.org
Mon Dec 18 23:03:20 AEST 2017

Ian Zimmerman:

> How do other train systems handle [DST], e.g. the European intercity 
> system?

Dave Horsfall:

  UTC?  It's not hard to get used to it.


You misunderstand the problem.

Suppose I'm planning to board a train at 0300 on the morning
Daylight Time ends.

Now suppose the train actually departs an hour early, at 0200,
because it originated before the time change and some nerd who
never rides trains declared that it shall not wait the extra
hour until scheduled departure time.

Nerds may be happy, but the paying passengers won't be.  Telling
passengers to set their watches to UTC just won't happen.  (Some
of us nerds actually had our watches on GMT for a few months
back in the years that gave the `Nixon table' in old ctime.c
its (informal) name, but gave up because it was just too damn
much work to stay in sync with the real world.)

Once upon a time, before railways had radio communications and
proper track-occupancy signalling, the consequences were more
serious than that: if you run an hour ahead of schedule, you
risk colliding with another train somewhere.  That is why it
was the railways that first accepted and promoted standard time

Nowadays it's not about scheduling and safety, just about
having an acceptable user interface.

In a similar vein, I know of at least one case in which Amtrak
changed the official departure time of a train (that requires
advance reservations and often runs full) from 0000 to 2359,
because people would get confused about which day midnight
falls on and show up a day late.  (Actually the Amtrak
timetable read 1200 midnight and 11:59 PM, but 24-hour time
is one of the changes I agree people should just accept
and use.)

Norman Wilson
Toronto ON

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