Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
WEDNESDAY 31 JANUARY 2001
MR C AUSTIN,
MR G WOODROFFE,
MS D RICHARDS
MR R WIGHTMAN
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
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?
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
(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.
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
(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,
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
(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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
(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.