Examination of Witnesses (Questions 83
WEDNESDAY 31 JANUARY 2001
MR C AUSTIN,
MR G WOODROFFE,
MS D RICHARDS
MR R WIGHTMAN
83. May I welcome you all to the third session
this morning of our inquiry on walking in towns? Would you like
to introduce yourselves?
(Ms Richards) My name is Deborah Richards
and I am head of Railtrack's Major Stations. On my left is Richard
Wightman who is Head of Passenger Business. Railtrack owns 2,503at
the last countstations across the network. We only operate
14 of those directly, for which I am responsible. The remainder
are leased to 23 train operating companies who run day to day
management of those stations and Mr Wightman is responsible for
the relationships on those.
(Mr Austin) I am Chris Austin, I am the Executive
Director for External Relations for the Strategic Rail Authority.
I am responsible, amongst other things, for relationships with
local and regional authorities and the rail passenger committee
network. On my left is my colleague Guy Woodroffe, who is the
Franchise Executive with the passenger group within SRA, who has
a particular responsibility for access to stations, including
(Mr Dean) My name is Martin Dean from FirstGroup PLC.
I am the Project Director (Policy) for FirstGroup. FirstGroup
is a major transport group in the UK. We have three rail franchises
and over 30 bus companies in the UK, totalling some 10,000 vehicles.
Chairman: Does anyone want to say anything by
way of introduction or are you happy to go straight to questions?
Straight to questions? Right.
84. I am pleased that the Strategic Rail Authority
have already answered this question. May I ask the others to name
the person responsible for promoting walking within your organisations?
(Ms Richards) There is no specific individual responsible
for walking in our organisation. Those responsibilities are divided
amongst a number of different departments who are responsible
for the execution of initiatives which might increase and improve
and enhance the lot of pedestrians on our facilities.
(Mr Dean) It is the same for us. For example, if we
were doing a re-franchising bid we would have somebody looking
at integrated transport issues, not specifically walking but the
whole range of modal issues, which is the best way to achieve
integration by getting somebody to look at a range of issues.
85. May I ask Mr Woodroffe, in your capacity
as the person with responsibility for walking, what you do?
(Mr Woodroffe) I work alongside Mr Austin in relationships
with the local and regional bodies and also with colleagues who
have direct relationships with the train operators. It is working
in partnership with groups as well as Railtrack and actually looking
at implementing schemes in local areas which address transport
integration and that includes pedestrian access to stations.
86. Do you have a projection for the number
of pedestrians who are coming to stations?
(Mr Austin) In general we are not very keen on the
idea of national target setting because access to stations is
all about local solutions to local problems. It is really important
to address those locally. There are over 2,500 stations in the
country and each of them has its own unique access issues to address.
If targets were to be set, we should want to see them set very
locally. We do not set any ourselves. We do have a general intention
to improve access by walking and indeed increase the number of
people who do walk to stations. It is one of the things we shall
have to do, if we are to accommodate the growth in traffic which
is forecast over the next ten years.
87. May I ask FirstGroup and Railtrack at what
point when you are designing a station or redesigning a station
you take walking into account?
(Ms Richards) As part of the design brief for the
redevelopment of any station, we have to take into account all
forms of access to that station, be it by motorbikes, taxis, pedestrians,
buses, coaches, etcetera. What we try to do as a matter of policy
is to segregate those forms of access to avoid conflict so that
you do not have people who are walking into the station having
to cross over taxi ranks or busy roads or carparks, or whatever
it may be. It is very explicit in the design brief for any redevelopment
on a station.
88. Is there a hierarchy in terms of who has
priority? Do you give priority access to cars above taxis or pedestrians
above buses? How does it work?
(Ms Richards) There is no priority access. It will
depend upon the individual circumstance of the station and its
position within a city centre. Most of our stations, bar Gatwick,
are in city centres. It will be specific to the local environment,
the local situation. There is no policy priority according to
(Mr Dean) The same with us. I would not really have
anything to add on that. We have a very similar approach.
89. You do not have any attitude which says
that you receive a fee from the provision of taxi ranks on most
of the older stations and they should be tucked away at a particular
(Ms Richards) No. Within the London stations we do
not receive any fee for taxi ranks.
90. No, but there are other areas in the United
Kingdom where you receive very considerable fees for taxi ranks.
(Ms Richards) Outside of London, yes, there are. The
needs of the passengers have to be balanced. The majority of people
coming into most of our stations, because they are in city centres,
will be walking through the city and walking in through the station.
For example, at Manchester, we currently have a very unpleasant
situation with the approach ramp. We have one approach ramp where
pedestrians from the city have to walk up, at the same time the
taxis are using that approach ramp, some private vehicles, some
buses, the transport police use that for storage of their cars
as well. What we are doing at the moment is building a new traffic
management system so that that approach ramp is largely pedestrianised.
So the key walking route through the city will come up that approach
ramp and the taxis and other vehicles are integrated at a lower
level and have a new entrance which will also give people direct
access to some of the more remote platforms. Hopefully we can
gain a win for all.
91. May I say that rail mileage is expected
to increase by 50 per cent by 2010? What is the forecast of the
actual growth in number of rail journeys?
(Mr Austin) The ten-year transport plan forecast a
50 per cent growth in passenger miles; that is certainly right.
They have set out a higher growth rate for longer distance journeys.
The majority of passengers in Britain are using shorter distance
services, so that implies a rather smaller growth in passenger
numbers. The actual number will come out of the franchise replacement
process, but it is still a very substantial growth on where we
are now and we need to plan to meet it.
92. If I have understood correctly, Railtrack's
planned future stations will be out of town, located near motorways.
Presumably there will not be too much pedestrian access there.
(Mr Wightman) In terms of future developments, those
are driven from the franchise replacement process which the SRA
are undertaking. It is actually the proposals which the bidders
for those franchises put forward and we work with them in developing
those schemes. It is the SRAs call in dealing with the competing
bids as to which schemes they wish to develop. We follow rather
than lead in that area.
(Mr Austin) In terms of the schemes we have approached
so far, in fact the first one within the SouthCentral franchise
will be a station in the London Borough of Merton which will not
be park-and-ride but almost entirely accessed by walking. It is
certainly not the case that future stations will be park-and-ride.
Some of those, such as the one recently opened at Warwick Parkway,
but many of the new ones, will be mixed use and with very substantial
numbers of people walking to them.
(Mr Dean) It is horses for courses. There are some
circumstances where parkway stations, which in terms of pedestrians
are in the middle of nowhere, can play a very good role in terms
of relieving traffic congestion on something like the M4 corridor.
It really is horses for courses. In other places where major developments
are taking place we should like to see railway stations as the
focus of housing developments, the hub of a housing development.
93. In the limited experience I have had, I
have been very impressed in countries like Holland and Denmark,
where people either walk to the bus which takes them to the train
or walk to the train and it all integrates and connects. What
proportion of your passengers actually arrive either at the station
or the bus on foot now and what targets do you have for that to
be increased by both foot passengers and cyclists in the future?
(Mr Austin) Nationally, overall 75 per cent of rail
passengers use walk as part of the journey, either to the bus
to get on the bus to get to the station, or to the station. If
you split that down a little further, about 45 per cent of passengers
access the station in the morning on foot. There is quite a regional
variation. Not surprisingly more people access in London than
the south east and fewer in the regions outside London. The lowest
is the north east where about one third reach the station on foot.
(Mr Dean) On the bus side, virtually every single
journey requires a pedestrian movement either at the start of
the journey or the finish of the journey. We appreciate the fact
that public transport journeys have to be seen as a whole journey
and to an extent we can do a lot to try to improve the reliability
of buses, putting better buses on the service to make them more
attractive. If people do not feel safe and secure when they are
walking to or from the bus stop, then they still will not make
the journey, regardless of what they do while they are on the
(Ms Richards) There are two angles to this one. One
is in terms of when stations are being redesigned, then accurate
counts are done at the access point for that station so we will
know exactly how many people come in either by taxi or on foot
or by Underground, whichever it may be. Apart from that, we do
not do separate counting or separate measurement of the mode of
access to the station. Our research tends to segment our passenger
base, station user base, according to the purpose of their journey.
We would segment according to whether they were commuters using
it for business, visiting friends or relatives or using the station
or going on the journey for leisure. That tends to determine the
nature of their need and facility.
94. It has been rumoured that you have amended
your forecasts with the announcement that fuel duty escalators
are not going to be automatic. Is that the case and if that is
the case, have you actually sought to reduce the amount of investment
in pedestrian access to stations?
(Mr Wightman) That is the case. It is the case that
in our network management statement in March 2000 we gave two
forecasts: one was with fuel duty escalator and the second, which
was about ten per cent lower, was without. In terms of the investment,
the decisions on the investment and the extent of the money which
the Government choose to invest in the industry via the SRA have
always been a Government call. We have forecasts and expectations
but it is their call. At the moment we are in the discussions
with the Government about future levels of investment.
95. May I ask a question about accessibility
on which quite a bit of emphasis is laid in your papers? I should
preface my question by saying that it is axiomatic if somebody
goes to a railway station by car or by public transport, they
are going to walk into the station, unless they are going to take
their car onto the platform. We all recognise that and that is
something which will happen anyway, no matter what form of transport
they use. We were told by the Pedestrians Association that people
purely walking will only do that if the work is perhaps less than
one mile and does not take them any more than 15 minutes. If I
look at Railtrack's paper and certainly SRA's paper, you concentrate
on major railway stations, in fact they are in five of the paragraphs
which are in here. Not a word about local stations at all. Similarly
with the SRA paper, you talk about better access, but you then
concentrate basically on the stations which are there now where
some development is envisaged. How do you intend to attract more
people by making station access more attractive for people who
want to walk to the station rather than get off a bus or get out
of their car and then walk into the station?
(Mr Austin) We think access by walking is really quite
important because against a forecast of an increase of 50 per
cent in passenger miles, it is clear that even if we wanted to
and even if train operators wanted to, we physically could not
accommodate all the extra traffic in terms of car trips to the
station. It is in our interest strategically and in the operators'
interest commercially that they make alternative methods of access
to the station as attractive as possible and that may be by bus,
certainly through secure cycle storage and cycling routes to stations
and it is certainly through improving walking to stations. That
has to be done almost entirely with the local authority because
the routes involved will be the responsibility of the highway
96. Let me give you an example in my own area.
The city I live in is 13 miles long; it is a long linear city.
It has one major station. Therefore, for people who want to get
to that major station, walking is out of the question because
they might be faced with a maximum six-mile walk to the station,
depending on which end of the city they live in. Yet over the
last 20, 30, 40 years four local railway stations have been closed
which would be within the one mile/15 minutes of the Pedestrians
Association. Is there any plan from the SRA or Railtrack or anybody
else to look at that? You did say that it was horses for courses,
local solutions. Is there any way you are having an input into
this by saying that if you are to attract more people to walk
to railway stations you have to create the stations for them to
(Mr Austin) That is right. I gave the example with
the SouthCentral franchise of the creation of a new station and
in fact about 250 new stations have opened over the last 20 years.
There is a reasonable track record on that. In terms of Stoke-on-Trent,
obviously you have Longport and Etruria and the possibility of
developing those through the Central Trains franchise and also
by bus links as well. I agree, with the five towns being so spread
out, you could not expect huge amounts of walking to take place.
97. Be careful, there are six towns. I am very
impressed by your local knowledge. Where does this process begin?
Does it begin with the SRA? Does it begin with Railtrack, FirstGroup
and other organisations or does it begin in the local plans?
(Mr Austin) Yes, it does really begin with the local
transport plan or ideas from the operators. Our role is to encourage
those two to get together.
98. What is the mechanism for you, SRA and others
to have an input into local transport plans? Is the mechanism
there or do you wait to be consulted?
(Mr Austin) There is a consultation process in both
directions. We have to consult local authorities on our proposals
so they can input into LTPs and vice-versa. We do encourage regular
dialogue and there is regular dialogue between train operators
and local authorities and between Railtrack zones and local authorities
99. I find it a bit strange this morning that
we are talking to the rail industry when we are primarily doing
an inquiry into walking. I just wondered whether walkers were
going to become competitors to the rail industry. May I pick up
on something in your answer to Mr Stevenson? I would have thought
a lot of local authorities would be a little reticent to put forward
in their local transport plan, plans to re-open stations which
were closed some time back. The local authorities are always seeing
the need for them but time and time and time again they have been
kicked back because they say they do not have the money and it
is not going to happen. Even in the Nuneaton area, the main route
from Nuneaton to Birmingham passes through all the main areas
of population which used to have a station, but they were closed
25 or 30 years ago. Are you going to turn round and ask local
authorities now please to look, with current allround transport
planning, at a distinct possibility of re-opening old stations?
(Mr Austin) Yes. Our experience has been that most
local authorities come forward with pretty substantial wish lists,
including lots of local stations. In your own area you have Bedworth
which was re-opened. There is plenty of opportunity and we do
have a mechanism to do that through the rail passenger partnership
schemes, special funding for that sort of purpose.
Mr Olner: Will you, as the Strategic Rail Authority,
be sending out an A4 flyer to local authorities who are starting
to look at their local transport plans, asking them to re-look
at opening stations?