Memorandum by First Stop York Tourism
Partnership (REN 04)
RAIL SERVICES IN THE NORTH OF ENGLAND
1. First Stop York is the City of York's
public-private sector tourism partnership, which is charged with
developing tourism in the city.
2. The partners have firm views on the importance
of the railway industry to the city, and of the damage that current
uncertainty regarding rail company franchises and operational
structures are doing to tourism prospects.
3. The partnership carries out annual research
into tourism trends in York. Each year roughly 20% of all York
visitors get to the city by train (around 800,000 train visitors
per year). We know from the most recent research that rail tourists
are more highly represented than this average in the following
More are overseas visitors (especially
American and European visitors).
More are staying overnight.
More are younger visitors.
More are in the higher social class
More are first time visitors.
4. This profile therefore fits many of York's
target market groupsoverseas visitors, overnight visitors
and higher income groupsso rail passengers make an even
more significant contribution to the York economy than their numerical
significance of 800,000 people.
5. As a consequence, problems on the railway
associated with Railtrack's work programme, and other issues such
as poor punctuality, cancelled trains and overcrowded trains have
a serious effect on the city's tourism prospects if it drives
people away from coming to York at all by train. The potential
role that rail travel visitors could make on York's tourism economy
is therefore even greater than it is at present, and York cannot
afford to lose this business, especially in a difficult tourism
environment such as the present day.
6. One specific initiative, which may be
a useful case-study for you is a promotion called First Stop York
by Train, whereby discounted entry is available to some 40 attractions
in York, and "three nights for the price of two" is
offered by many accommodation providers. The scheme operates through
Arriva/Transpennine and GNER in the off-peak period (end of September
to the start of May) and has been running successfully for ten
years now, averaging 60,000 visits to York each year. In 2000-01
the numbers fell to 10,000 as a result of accidents, floods and
Railtrack's work programme and had only recovered to the mid-20,000s
7. Clearly with a good proportion of York
visitors getting to the city by train, any issues of reliability,
punctuality and comfort that have a negative impact on these travellers
is a serious issue for the city. On top of the admittedly unexpected
work programme that Railtrack has had to organise, the poor record
of reliability of the Arriva service (as demonstrated by recent
fines from the Strategic Rail Authority) is a serious matter to
York, as the Transpennine service, with direct links from Manchester
Airport, is one of the key selling points for access to the city
by international as well as regional visitors. Given the difficulties
the UK as whole is facing at present regarding falling overseas
visitor numbers, unreliable rail communications give a bad first
impression to many of them.
8. First Stop York would like, therefore,
to see a reaffirmation of the commitment to reliable, comfortable
and punctual services by whichever companies operate the rail
franchises to York in the North of England, as so much is at stake
locally in the refranchising process which is now nearing completion.
9. The First Stop York partners would seek
from the SRA a commitment to :
a frequent level of service provision
across the North of England;
specifically, frequent services (including
night-time) to and from Manchester Airport, with trains with ample
luggage space for tourist passengers;
a recognition of the need for appropriate
levels and standards of service to and from the regional airports
serving YorkshireLeeds/Bradford (links to bus services),
Humberside, Sheffield, Teesside and (in the future) Finningley;
rolling stock providing computer
connections, leg room etc for business travellers.
10. An increase in capacity and a commitment
to improvements is essential if people are to be encouraged out
of their carssuch an aim requires longer trains and infrastructure
improvements to allow more trains to be run, but hand in hand
with a requirement on the franchise operators to perform to expectations.
I hope this information covers your requirements.
Secretary, First Stop York Tourism Partnership
31 May 2002