TeletubbiesIt’s always interesting when a human touch breaks through the corporate identity.

On a trip to Edinburgh yesterday, I saw two construction vehicles personalised by their respective employees.

The first was a private builder’s flatbed truck. On each of the upright corners of the grill behind the cab a Teletubbie had been impaled, one green, one purple. They looked as if they’d been retrieved from a skip and their limbs flopped around in the truck’s slipstream like miniature corpses. Not a positive image.

The other was a bit closer to home for me and altogether more subtle – a vehicle belonging to the council I used to work for. Most of their vehicles are painted white (it’s cheaper) and sport the council logo in blue. They’re usually well-maintained and look in good condition. This one was no exception. But printed in the corporate blue and apparently professionally in capitals below the window at the rear of the cab, were the words ‘IT’S NAE EASY.’

The message was given added meaning for me because the council’s slogan, short  version, is ‘the very best of Scotland.’ I know because I wrote it. OK, as specified by councillors, but I did write it (a councillor, now out of favour with the majority of his colleagues, suggested adding the ‘very’).

I just loved the conjunction of ‘It’s nae easy’ and ‘The very best’. What could be more true? Striving to be the best isn’t easy and whoever added this discreet adornment to this particular vehicle should be praised. I hope their wisdom is used in that council’s employee induction programme to get over the more profound truth.

Recorded by the BBC at the Farnborough Air Show, an exhibitor explains his company’s product

This is next generation of systems to provide kind of the high-end situation awareness for pilots.  It starts with the central computer right here which really has the computer capacity of a laptop but it’s really no bigger than a smart phone.  That system is fully integrated with the soldier worn display which is again a nice, if you look here is a very thin wear right on your wrist touch screen gives the person off the aircraft situational awareness kind of the bird ‘s eye view of where they are, where the target is, where the friendlies are and where the bad guys are.  The beauty of this is that we’re really leveraging off of existing commercial technology, making it applicable for military use.  So that soldiers when they go back into the field they don’t go back in time   They can operate with systems and solutions that they‘re very comfortable with in everyday use.  That’s the big deal about this.

So now you know.

You have to feel sorry for the ScotRail employee responsible for their Twitter feed @ScotRail.

Since 7 a.m. this morning (I write this at 8.45 a.m.) he/she has tweeted eleven times, seven in response to complaints made online.

But the two tweets that caught my eye give information about changes to (no let’s speak plainly – problems with) a couple of train services this morning, useful in the circumstances I suppose, but not as useful as if they’d been able to run the trains as promised.

Please be advised that the 08.39 Edinburgh/Fife Circle will run as 2 carriages due to set availability. Apologies for any inconvenience.

Please be advised the 07:45 Falkirk Grahamston – Glasgow Qn St will run as 3 carriages due to unit availability.

I bring these tweets to your avid attention as a small example of official (I suppose a privatised train company running services with a public subsidy can count as official) use of language.

Note that one train has carriages, a concept I am familiar with, the other has sets, something I’m less clear about although I had one when I was a child.

Note that one set (oops, sorry lot) of passengers get an apology (lucky old Fife circlers), the others from sunny Falkirk just get the information sans apology.

Well, I suppose this is trivia, and at least any passengers on these lines who follow @ScotRail know where they stand – probably literally given their shrunken trains.

The slightly bigger question is where do these carriages and ‘sets’ go? Have they wandered south to bail out First rail franchises in England?  Are they lost in a siding somewhere?  Did the crew set off without checking the coupling, leaving their respective carriages and sets, Thomas the Tank Engine-like, sobbing on lonely platforms at Falkirk Grahamstown and Edinburgh Waverley?  Or are they just broke, and if so how and why?  I think we, or at least the poor old commuters involved, should be told.

Oh, last thought ScotRail. Try to communicate in the slightly simpler language that Twitter so clearly, and briefly, needs. The words ‘Please be advised’ in these messages are not needed. ‘Sorry’ sounds more human than ‘apologies.’

Best of all, of course, do something to make sure your trains run as promised.

Footnote 12 June 2012

Today’s ScotRail tweet reads

Please be advised the 07:20 Dundee – Edinburgh will run as 4 carriages due to availability.

Difficult to know what this adds to yesterday’s moan, except that ScotRail clearly suffer the disadvantage of not reading and taking note of the HelpGov blog.  I might dip into this more regularly (at least offline, you’ll be pleased to know) to see whether they continue to lose carriages.  What’s the betting that six months from now I’ll be able to update this post but with new examples?