Select Committee on Transport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by First Stop York Tourism Partnership (REN 04)


  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 market segments:

    —  More are overseas visitors (especially American and European visitors).

    —  More are staying overnight.

    —  More are younger visitors.

    —  More are in the higher social class groups.

    —  More are first time visitors.

  4.  This profile therefore fits many of York's target market groups—overseas visitors, overnight visitors and higher income groups—so 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 in 2001-02.

  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 :

    —  modern rolling stock;

    —  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 Yorkshire—Leeds/Bradford (links to bus services), Humberside, Sheffield, Teesside and (in the future) Finningley; and

    —  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 cars—such 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.

Ian Tempest

Secretary, First Stop York Tourism Partnership

31 May 2002

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