Why do UK train stations (and airports) not list platforms/gates ahead of time?

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This topic contains 11 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  conair346 14 Jan 2011
at 22:32

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  • Anonymous


    Why do train stations , specifically not list platforms like the european train stations do? It seems like the bygone days when everyone just stares blankly at the schedules and then rush to the trains in a most uncivilised fashion? Usually one only has 10-15 mins to make it to the length of the platform to your coach.

    Whereas in Europe, the platforms are given to you ahead of time (months even) so that one may then casually board or wait at their convenience.

    Same goes to UK airports where you are held hostage in a shopping mall until your gate is announced! Whereas all the other airports in the world list the flights’ departure gates when you check in – sometimes as far as 48 hours ahead.

    Is the UK really that backward? Or just paranoid (from the IRA era)?


    I suspect because:

    a) Platform numbers may change at short notice due to delays/equipment changes

    b) It allows passengers on busy long-distance inbound services to disembark the train and clear the platform first

    That said, I find that platform numbers are published on the National Rail website further in advance than 10-15 minutes before departure and at less busy stations platform numbers are called earlier anyway.


    Travelling from CDG on the high speed train last year, not only was the platform well advertised in advance, but there were clear signs advising pax where to wait for their designated carriages. A very god service indeed.



    Sorry to sound like VK, but in the UK it’s a “railway station” NOT a “train station.”

    On the substantive matter, Hippocampus is correct as far as trains are concerned. Furthermore, most of the UK’s main stations do not have much, if any, excess capacity, so the flexibility of platform allocation is crucial if delays are to be minimised. Also, most European networks do not have the mix of operators that the UK has and this impacts on platform allocation priorities over here.

    I should also add that some of our operators have poor punctuality records (unlike, say, DB or SNCF). Our system then tends to operate at the efficiency level of the “lowest common denominator” (operator). Accommodating poor punctuality has to be done through flexible platform allocation, effectively “on demand” at times. I make no excuses for this – simply stating fact!

    Therefore, Guy, it’s a very valid question but one to which isn’t that easy to give a wholly satisfactory answer.

    As far as airports are concerned, I can’t answer that.

    Regards, Simon


    Like the US, the UK is an emerging third world country…


    JJ – less of the “emerging,” if you please…… 😉




    All train diagrams have a platform number allocated and the signaller will know where he direct a particular train, as will the driver. As Hippocampus says you can find platform numbers on the National Rail website.

    By not announcing platforms at stations any earlier is primarily to stop congestion at termini stations, just incase there is a change which gives flexability.

    There are some stations where it is unusual for platforms to change, particularly places like East Croydon, Brighton, Southampton Central to name a few.

    Hope that helps



    It does not help that our railway is not a single unified body. Train operators do not work together and do not have integrated timetables. And of course the railways are managed by an entirely different firm from the operators.

    German railways publish platform numbers and coach positions for almost all trains, at all times, and are an exemplar for how to run a rail network. The ideological imperative won out over common sense when the UK privatised railways.
    As for airports ….see this recent thread.



    I couldn’t agree with you more, Binman.



    Strictly speaking Binman what you say in your first paragraph is not quite correct. Whatever timetables the operators wish to run have to be approved by Network Rail and the DfT. Case in point is that Southern wanted to run a particular timetable from December on the Brighton line which was refused by NR and DfT. It may appear at times that operators do not talk and intigrate but it does happen.

    The problem for the railways is the micro management that the DfT imposes on operators and the amount of management time that takes up. When things are running fine and that is most of the time, all the operators don’t do a bad job if you look at it objectively.

    It is not only the German railways that publish the platform numbers, the Dutch do as well. I think that they could do it in the UK, but when things go wrong there is always people that want to play the blame game so its damage limitation and that does not stop at railways.


    Well at Manchester Piccadilly I know where my trains leave from regardless of delays etc.

    Platforms 13 and 14 are the only through platforms so the vast majority of MAN trains are on 13 and Salford/Blackpool/Edinburgh etc are on 14. Simples.

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