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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 83 - 99)




  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 2,503—at the last count—stations 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 walking.
  (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.

Mr Brake

  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 access.
  (Mr Dean) The same with us. I would not really have anything to add on that. We have a very similar approach.

Mrs Dunwoody

  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 point.
  (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.

Miss McIntosh

  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 bus.
  (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.

Mr Stevenson

  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 authority.

  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 walk 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 too.

Mr Olner

  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?

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