I recently rediscovered Transport for London’s live departure boards for tube stations. I find this a useful feature as it allows me to plan my departure from home allowing me to arrive just in time to catch the train to work rather than just watch it leave as I do normally. It then struck me that there might be an iPhone app that incorporates it. Clearly the developers are way ahead of me on this and there indeed several that make available the departure boards in a handy interface.
To date I’ve been using London Tube Status which simply provides the status of the various London Underground lines. It does the job, looks nice and it’s free, however it seems I’ve been missing a trick. From the same author is TubeDeluxe, an app for just 59p which integrates the departure boards, journey planner, tube map and nearest station finder with the line status report. I browsed a number of London travel apps before going with TubeDeluxe and I have to say it’s proven a sound choice.
Let’s start with the departure boards. The Mule resides on the Met line; many miles outside of central London and with trains sufficiently far apart that you don’t really want to extend the commute even longer through having just missed one train and having to wait 10 mins or so for the next. Choose your line, your station and see when the train is due and plan your departure from home accordingly. Excellent. It’s effectively designed and on a line such as the Met where many station don’t show much if any live train information you can be keep a step ahead. Handily, for stations where the line is shared with Chiltern Railways, the departure boards show their departures too.
Now given the nature of the tube there are a few quirks. When trains approach Harrow-on-the-Hill there are a number of possible platforms the train could take. The departure boards, whose data comes from TfL to be fair, shows the train at each of the possible platforms until the train is near to the station and the platform is confirmed. There are also occasions when trains appear or disappear but in the main it works very well indeed.
The departure boards really came into their own during the recent tube strikes when knowing just how well the various lines were running was half the battle. What exactly does severe delays mean? In fact, during the strike it wasn’t the case that the trains were running any slower than usual that was causing delay, it was that you’d have to potentially wait an inordinately long time for a train to turn up. Using TubeDeluxe I could see if trains were running and how frequently. It allows users to make informed decisions about their travel plans and it worked out very well for me.
As for the other features, the status of each of the lines is of course a must check every day and this now has the handy addition of a weekend engineering works button at the bottom as, let’s face it, not a weekend goes by when several of the tube lines aren’t closed. There’s an excellent resizeable and scrollable map of the tube network which is great for handy reference when visually planning a route. For more detail there is a route planner feature, although it only plans routes using only the tube, London Overground and DLR and doesn’t factor in walking or buses. This means it’s handy but doesn’t necessarily show you the fastest route as the TfL route planner normally would. The final feature locates your nearest stations; never again be stuck in an unfamiliar part of town and not know how to get home.
Tube Deluxe is another fine app from Malcolm Barclay. Presentation is excellent and the features work well and intuitively. For 59p it’s a bargain.