Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100 - 119)



Mrs Dunwoody

  100. So we are going to get a new station at Crewe, are we? I seem to recall you just slung that one out.
  (Mr Austin) They do of course have to meet value for money criteria.

Mr Olner

  101. Did you insist that the holders of new or extended rail passenger franchises include any specific plans for improvements for pedestrians in the bids they made to you?
  (Mr Austin) Yes, we have a number. For example on the Chiltern franchise, one of the big benefits we have achieved has been level access to all the stations on their network over the next four years, which is a big improvement for people walking to the station, particularly those who have walking difficulties or people with luggage or prams. Signing is part of it, information, ticket sales off site for people who can then walk to the station. A number of initiatives within that and some money set aside generally for station improvements which they will then discuss with the local authority to take forward.

  Mr Olner: Out of the 2,500 stations, how is the quality going to be improved for pedestrians? Some of it is grotty at the moment, is it not?

Mrs Dunwoody

  102. Some of it is daft, is it not? Even simple things. I use Paddington, for my sins, at the moment all the time, because of the iniquities of the rail industry. I now fly from Heathrow. Frankly, we have all these wonderful shops, all these marvellous check-in points but to get actual access as a passenger at Paddington ... You come out at the end of the platforms down here, you want to go to the taxi rank over there, you can get down to the Underground system all right, but you walk all round the place before you get anywhere near the taxi access. If you are lugging luggage and you are not very pleased with Railtrack, at the end of the day I can tell you the words one uses are quite colourful.
  (Ms Richards) I can understand that. Paddington in its current layout and design is less than optimal.

  103. I think you could describe it as that. "Less than optimal" is not the phrase which always leaps to my mind.
  (Ms Richards) The taxi rank used to come through the middle of the station.

  104. When it was poor old British Rail we used to have something boring like taxis where you wanted them. We soon got rid of that.
  (Ms Richards) Unfortunately the taxis coming in through the station conflicted with the passengers needing to get across to the other platforms.

  105. True. I seem to have got hooked on taxis. In fact it is the business of walking. If you get off a train clutching a big case and a briefcase and perhaps shopping because some of us want to eat, you then still have to get to the other side of the station.
  (Ms Richards) We have a scheme at the moment with Westminster and a planning application for a traffic management interchange deck on the other side of the station from where the taxi rank currently is with full lift and escalator access up to that. Because of the way we are constrained by the roads around Paddington it is a particularly difficult situation.

  Mrs Dunwoody: I know what a success Westminster made of planning the scheme round the station so I shall await the results with some interest.

Mr Olner

  106. May I ask what progress has been made with Sustrans' target for establishing up to 30 pilot projects a year for the next three years which will provide good quality walking and cycling routes to rail and bus stations? Has no progress been made or are you searching for progress?
  (Mr Wightman) I am sorry, I was trying to find my notes. We have agreed 97 sites to look at with them this year with a target of delivering 30 of them by the end of this year. We have a rolling programme over the next three or four years with them to review a steady stream of sites and to improve access.

  107. How far up in your mindsets is quality for pedestrians at your railway stations? The business is getting trains in and out, is it not? Do pedestrians come a long way down your list to be looked after?
  (Mr Wightman) There is little point getting the trains in and out if people cannot get to and from the trains.

  108. In the past it seems to me you have completely ignored the quality side of what pedestrians have to suffer at railway stations.
  (Mr Wightman) Our opportunity to solve the problems of the past comes whenever a station is redeveloped or the forecourt or particular areas of the station. One example at the moment is Hitchin station where we have separated the access for pedestrians with a slightly raised walkway and the most direct route to the station entrance through the forecourt. The next section has the buses and taxis and the final section has the access to the carpark which is beyond. When we have opportunities like that we make every effort to ensure that all the modes of access are adequately addressed and particularly that there is good level access for pedestrians. That is one of the things we have been working with the SRA in the franchising process to ensure, as you have heard, on Chiltern.

  109. May I say that Railtrack did an excellent partnership job with the Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council on Nuneaton railway station. They made the outside of that absolutely superb and very user friendly. There are some stations within the network which are very daunting for pedestrians, particularly when it is dark. Do you have any plans, perhaps in a partnership deal or going it alone, to make sure those areas are well illuminated so that passengers do not feel a threat when they have left your station?
  (Mr Wightman) The lighting schemes are led by the train operators but we will cooperate and help them in that as far as we possibly can. For the 2,500 stations we lease it is actually the operators who make those initial decisions.
  (Mr Dean) For example in our Trans-Pennine bid which we are putting together at the moment we have a policy of making sure we look at access by all modes. For example, at Huddersfield we are proposing a big redevelopment. That looks at aspects such as making sure the lighting on the station forecourt is good, but also identifying where people want to go to and come from to get to the station and making sure that the walk routes, in terms of lighting, signage, the landscaping, are conducive to attracting people to the station. That is very much in our thoughts. The point you make about problems in the past is valid and it is because transport planning in the 1970s was all about making sure there was good car access and not just to stations but everywhere. We are trying to repair the legacy of that now.

Mrs Ellman

  110. You mentioned the question of lighting at stations. One of the reasons people are very wary of using stations at night is the absence of lighting and absence of staffing local stations at night. Who is responsible for that?
  (Mr Dean) That is certainly something we are responsible for. What we have done for example in our NorthWestern Trains franchise is progressively introduce CCTV and help points. It is appreciated by our passengers.

Mrs Dunwoody

  111. I can tell you that if you are standing on a platform late at night, CCTV is absolutely no comfort at all. It would be very nice to know who was beating me up, but it would not be a lot of consolation.
  (Mr Dean) I recognise that. The other thing we have done with NorthWestern Trains is that we have put in a firm of people to look after trains at night at stations, to make sure there is a visible presence. We do recognise that and we are trying to respond to what customers want. That has been a £1 million investment in the NorthWestern Trains franchise.

Mrs Ellman

  112. It is all very well talking in these global terms, but if you are a passenger waiting for a train late at night, maybe not all that late, on a local station where no members of staff are visible, it can be quite a frightening experience. Hearing about schemes and all the rest of it does not really mean very much if you are there. It makes the passenger think they will not travel that way again. What are you doing about it?
  (Mr Dean) That is not a scheme, it is a reality. We call them security guards, but they provide passenger assistance and that is happening, that is reality, that is a response to the fact that we recognise that some of our stations in the NorthWestern Trains franchise are open stations, they are not staffed and that is something which was the case before privatisation and we are trying to respond to that. That is something we do recognise. If we want to attract extra passengers, that is an area we need to address.

  113. It needs to be addressed and perhaps somewhere else is the place to pursue that but I do think that is a very real issue. What has been the impact of quality partnerships on improving access to train and bus stations?
  (Mr Dean) We were involved in over 40 quality partnerships which is the most for any bus operator in the UK. We strongly believe in them because it does give an answer to the comprehensive look at bus routes and how the service is provided. As part of that we might review where the route goes. If there is a case for diverting a route into a railway station forecourt because our passengers want to do that, then we should certainly look at that. It can happen as part of quality partnerships. Sometimes the highway authorities as part of their deal might help us with traffic management outside a railway station so we can get our buses in more easily. That does happen.

  114. How often does it happen?
  (Mr Dean) For example, Blackpool North is a station under our control and the bus services in Blackpool are operated by Blackpool Transport, which is not a FirstGroup service, but we had a scheme there where the bus operator comes in there. At Manchester Piccadilly there is a service called CentreLine.

Mrs Dunwoody

  115. Unless you have something which runs the length of the platforms at Blackpool North I am astonished anybody goes there at all.
  (Mr Dean) We cannot get the buses on the platforms.

  116. What a disappointment.
  (Mr Dean) In Manchester the CentreLine service is being funded by the chamber of commerce and city council and that runs right to Manchester Piccadilly station forecourt, right outside the station entrance, it is a free service with a low floor bus and it is used very, very well to provide access from the rail station to the city centre shops, which are quite remote. It does happen.
  (Mr Austin) One thing the rail industry has done rather well over the last five years is develop a lot of rail/bus links, including through-ticketing proper connections and proper signage and timetable information between the two. There is actually a kitemark system which is run through the association of train operating companies and there are over 200 of these links throughout the country now and that is growing.

  117. Who knows about the kitemark system? That is the first I have ever heard of it. I am interested to hear about it. How do I know as a passenger about the kitemark system and how do I know what the markings are and where I can find them?
  (Mr Dean) If for example, you went to Paddington station and asked a GreatWestern Trains booking office clerk about bus/rail links he would be able to provide you with a comprehensive leaflet.

  118. Yes, but what indicates that to me when I get up to the booking office with a queue of people behind me?
  (Mr Dean) There are posters on all our GreatWestern stations saying that there are bus/rail links available.

  119. I use it twice a week and I have to say I have not seen one.
  (Mr Dean) I would not disagree that one of the things the whole public transport industry needs to do is make sure that all the initiatives which are going on are well communicated to its passengers. We could certainly make improvements there. It is there and we can provide you with a very comprehensive leaflet which tells you all the bus/rail links.

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