Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from Jean Roberts (DAT 09)

I have heard items on BBC Radio 4 about you looking into rail services. I think particularly in relation to disabled passengers, but all my observations apply to everyone. There are a number of problems on “Southern trains which I feel need attention.

Ticket Machines

1. Grey screens with coloured print are very difficult to read. One of the machines at Shoreham Station is sited where on a sunny day, even those with good vision cannot read the information on the screen.

Screens need to be clearer.

Siting needs to be carefully considered.

Seat Configuration

2. In many carriages make it hard to walk down the central aisle. It is almost impossible for anyone with: luggage (going to Gatwick?); a small child; who is pregnant; is overweight; or in any way disabled.

This is not only inconvenient it is a serious health and safety issue. People could not get out of these carriages quickly if the need arose. (A similar seat configuration on South West Trains has been more carefully planned so that there are about the same number of seats but much easier passage down the aisle). So it can be done.

3. I have written many times to Southern and to passenger Focus about train toilets that are “out of order”—since the introduction of “new” rolling stock. (five or six years?) Southern have solved this problem and now run many trains without any toilet facilities.

The only direct trains from Brighton to Portmouth have no toilet facilities. (Journey time approx 1 hr 20 mins).

Many stations have no toilet facilities.

At some stations toilets are “out of order” for months at a time.

The Ladies toilets at the very busy Brighton station have recently been refurbished. The number of cubicles have been reduced by half!

Anyone who is pregnant; has a small child; has kidney trouble; Crohn’s disease; IBS; or is elderly; or who just didn’t use a toilet before boarding a train is in trouble.

I have seen people leave trains before their intended station and a small child urinate into a plastic bag.

Very Victorian in the twenty-first century.

4. Recently on several occasions when trains were delayed a broadcast announcement apologised “because of an earlier broken down train”. These train breakdowns seem surprisingly frequent, on relatively new trains. More reliable trains (or better maintenance?) are needed.

5. Beside Shoreham-by-Sea station is a level crossing. Until ticket barriers were introduced (two years ago?), it had been usual for many years for pedestrians to use the underpass. Now there is no alternative but to stand in wind and rain –sometimes for 15 or 20 minutes. A footbridge is needed.

I like train travel. I use trains both in the UK and on the continent.

Our train service could easily be good, if it was better run and was given to the passengers. I hope your Committee will have the power to strongly influence the train operators to energize those which do not do a good enough job and encourage those who provide a better service.

November 2012

Prepared 13th September 2013