26 July 2009

Routeing Guide

Have you ever gazed at your train ticket and wondered exactly what 'any permitted route' actually means, as stated at the bottom of the ticket itself? What is and what isn't a permitted route and how do I find out? We've often felt this until regular contributor 'GWB' offered us some enlightenment in the way of introducing us to the Association of Train Operating Companies' (ATOC) Routeing Guide.

As a rule of thumb, the shortest distance between your start and end points is always a permitted route. On journeys that necessitate a change or two along that route, the permitted route is where these changes are advertised as being required. For all other journey options, the Routeing Guide needs to be consulted.

First of all you need to look at the Routing Point Identifier table, that lists all stations that form part of the National Rail network. Let's take a trip within the LEYTR area, from Bridlington to Kirton Lindsey. First, we must identify our start point (good old Brid') in the table and note its Associated Routeing Points: Hull and Scarborough Group. From the same table, we now need to choose our destination, the least-used station, Kirton Lindsey. Here, there are four Associated Routeing Points: Barnetby, Doncaster, Lincoln and Retford.

Now it's time to use the Permitted Route Identifier table, in order to ascertain which permitted route we're able to use, since there are no direct trains between Bridlington and Kirton Lindsey, and we're not too sure of which option offers the shortest distance to travel. Here it gets slightly more complicated: we need to look for the first routeing point for our origin station in the first column, which for Bridlington is Hull and the same for our destination point, which for Kirton Lindsey is Barnetby. On page 471 we find our result: Hull - Barnetby has a permitted route labelled 'ER', which is a map reference.

We now need to visit the Map Section to view the cartography associated with 'ER'. This is found on the 30th page. We must now use this map to locate the most direct manner of travel between the two points. We have options. The most direct route appears to be Bridlington-Hull-Doncaster, Doncaster-Retford, Retford-Kirton Lindsey. But since Bridlington had two Routeing Points, the second being Scarborough Group, we can do the same calculation again using this point and any one of the remaining three Routeing Points for Kirton Lindsey: Doncaster, Lincoln and Retford. However, map 'ER' always appears as the ultimate reference.

It therefore means Bridlington-Scarborough, Scarborough-York, York-Doncaster, Doncaster-Barnetby and Barnetby-Kirton Lindsey is also possible and perfectly acceptable.

We're impressed that such depth of information exists and is readily available to rail passengers to use, and we're confident that these permitted routes have been correctly built into the online journey planners, but it does throw into stark light the complexity of any non-direct journey to be made in this country. Such is the confusion at times, how can train guards be expected to know all possible permutations? The book itself has well over 1,000 pages and is therefore incredibly inconvenient to carry around.

If ever the time was right to completely overhaul this and the equally ludicrous fares system that exists, right now, the middle of a thumping great recession is surely the perfect time to do so!

ATOC's web page devoted to its Routeing Guide can be accessed by clicking here. (GWB)

Please note: this entry has had an update posted. Click here to read the update.