Rubbish Romanse

No, not romance – romanse. Or to be more accurate, RoManSE. It’s the Road Management System for Europe – I’m not sure why it’s in Southampton, if it’s supposed to be “for Europe”, but there y’go. Anyway, it’s a pile of poo.

It’s supposed to keep traffic flowing – if you look at the traffic cams on the Radio Solent website, they’re part of RoManSE. There’s also a stack of information boards around the city’s roads, that say things like “No Reported Problems” – except at the moment they normally say things like “London Road is being dug up, don’t even think about going there”. Part of the way they keep traffic moving is by making it easier to use busses – don’t laugh, it works in London – and so “BusTracker” is part of the system.

There’s a bus tracker terminal at the bus stop outside the railway station. You have a look at the screen and it tells you how long you’ve got to wait before your bus comes – apparently this knowledge encourages you to wait for the bus, rather than going home to get your car in order to drive home. Errrm, or something like that. The trouble is, it doesn’t work – when it says the number 17 (for example) is due, that actually means that the number 17 might be due, but it’s more likely to have been and gone sometime in the last five minutes.

And that’s assuming you get to see the bus information. There are three pages on a continuous scroll: Page one is information about how the system would work, if it did: Page two is busses due soon, page three is busses due later. The trouble is, page one stays on screen for ages, then in the time it takes to blink, two and three have gone and page one is back. And page two takes some reading – it doesn’t only show busses going in one direction, it doesn’t even only show busses coming past the station. Busses on this screen could be passing anywhere through the city centre and going in any direction: you need to focus just to spot whether the bus you want is on there or not.

Those signboards are interesting though: They’re basically the same as the old message pagers, but with a huge display. Somebody in RoManSE HQ sends a message to the pager, and it appears on the screen. And that means that it’s sent over a public radio frequency, and is almost certainly encoded in POCSAG, for which software is publicly available. Sounds like endless possibilities for mischief to me :-)

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