Sunday, 31 May 2009

Deadline for objections to York barriers extended to 26th June

Apparently there were some hiccups with the City of York Council website that meant comments couldn't be submitted online to the revised barriers application. However, these have now been sorted out and the deadline for comments has been extended to 26th June. You can comment on the plans here:

Another meeting is also expected to take place involving English Heritage that may result in yet further revisions to the scheme. The expectation at present is that they will be considered by the West and Central Area Planning Committee in July.

Please note that the advice is that anyone who put in a comment before should resubmit it to the council, to make sure that it will still be taken into account on the revised application.

For information the current position on the Newcastle barriers is that the council granted "minded to approve" consent, whcih now has to go to the Government Office for the North East for final approval. Updates to follow.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Do barriers meet safety standards?

There are surely serious questions about whether new ticket barriers meet safety standards in view of the warning posters being put up at stations by Fist Capital Connect (see earlier blogs). The Railway Group Standards on automatic ticket gates (guidelines that rail companies are supposed to follow, issued in 2003 say the following:

"The station operator shall ensure that the:
  • design of the ATGs enables passengers to pass through them without injury (including injury caused by electric shock)
  • ATGs are designed to open in the event of equipment failure
  • manually operated auxiliary gates are designed to release in the event of equipment failure
  • ATG equipment is configured such that the contact forces exerted by thegates do not cause injury to passengers."
The standards go on to state:

"The sensors provided within the ATG mechanism should ensure that, when a gate has been opened to enable a person to pass through, it does not close until that person has passed safely through the ATG. There should be no opportunity for the person to become trapped or for the gate to close on the person and so cause possible injury. The sensors should also detect that the area swept by an opening gate is clear before the gate can open. This should not apply if the emergency open facility is activated.

The design of the ATGs should also enable people to pass through without injury, for example by trapped fingers or limbs, or injury to the heads of smallchildren."

Not sure how all of that fits in with FCC's warning poster saying that children could face "serious injury". As well as children, there have also been instances of dogs, bicycles and luggage becoming trapped.

Sheffield station - demonstration to keep the footbridge open

Just to let people know that a demonstration will be taking place in Sheffield tomorrow against East Midlands Trains' massively unpopular plans to close off the station there with barriers.


Don’t let East Midlands Trains get away with highway robbery. You, the people of Sheffield, have contributed £7 million towards the creation of this safe, clean and much valued pathway to the city centre. Are you prepared to let East Midlands Trains take it from you?

Twice, in the week of 11th May, as part of a ticket checking exercise, East Midlands Trains stopped people using the bridge, including children and people with buggies, forcing them to use the unsafe alternative, known as "Mugger’s Alley".

Join us on Wednesday, 20th May at 5p.m. in front of the station and walk with us across the bridge, to show that it belongs to Sheffield and we intend to keep it!
They can check tickets without closing the bridge.

No one, except East Midlands Trains, wants the bridge to close. All the Sheffield M.P.s are against it, as are the Councillors. Come along and show your opposition.

For details check out the website:

Monday, 18 May 2009

Live from Norwich: the latest barriers fiasco

Apparently the new barriers at Norwich station have been causing so many problems (see earlier blogs) they've now been taken out of use altogether. The picture below shows that the wide gate has simply been left permanently open.

By all accounts the conductors on the trains are also making less effort as a consequence, so the net result is a massive reduction in the effectiveness of ticket checking. But don't worry, the barriers will only have cost a million or so to put in!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Government health warning: ticket gates can seriously damage your children's health

According to a report in Rail Management Online by Sim Harris, First Capital Connect have now put up posters at several stations where ticket gates have recently been installed, warning of potential danger to young children passing through ticket barriers accompanied by parents. The posters state that a child caught in a closing barrier could face "serious injury" and advises those with children or luggage to use the wide gates - as long, of course as long as one of the limited number of wide gates will actually work.

No similar warnings have yet been posted at any stations run by other franchises.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

CABYS statement on revised York plans

Having had a chance to look at the revised plans for barriers at York, it appears that National Express have made some significant changes. The height of the glazed screens has been reduced and provision made for access from the short stay car park; however, there will still be four separate gate lines, at least two of which will only be staffed at peak times.

National Express have also issued a "justification" statement more or less identical to that at Newcastle.

CABYS has issued a press statement on the revised plans:

We are pleased to see that, in their revised plans, NXEC have addressed the problem of access from the short-stay car park. However the new plans do nothing to satisfy those of us who are upset at the way in which an important listed building is to be marred by the installation of ugly and unnecessary barriers. And yet this is not just a question of aesthetics, for there are other equally important issues at stake.

Basically ticket barriers are just not suitable for this kind of station. York has no less than four separate entrances, with the result that at both the long-stay car park and the Leeman Rd car park there will be no assistants on hand, just ticket machines and an intercom for passengers needing help. This means that people with disabilities (whether sensory, mental or physical) will have considerable difficulty dealing with these facilities, as too will mothers with small children and the elderly. Also if potential passengers find that it is not possible to buy the correct ticket or that the barriers will not allow them through then they will have to walk all the way round to the front of the station.

Another deeply worrying feature of the proposed scheme is whether NXEC will have the staff necessary to man all the barriers at all those times when passengers are likely to need assistance (especially since they seem to be shedding staff at present). They claim that the barriers will be fully manned “at peak times”. But the likelihood is that those passengers most in need of assistance – such as those with excessive luggage, the elderly, the disabled, and families – are precisely the people who do not travel at “peak times”. So how are they to get help when they need it?

And then there’s Grand Central. Currently travellers enjoy the fact that they are able to buy their tickets on the train. But if this plan goes through they will have to join the long queues in the ticket office, because National Express will be able to refuse access to the platforms for anyone without a ticket. This should be ruled out on the grounds that it is anti-competitive, especially as National Express run the Travel Centre and would therefore gain commission from these tickets.

The case for installing automated gates is not proven. Most journeys in and out of York allow enough time for on-train staff to check and issue tickets between stations. ‘Fare dodging’ is usually associated with short distance commuting, but most journeys that start or end at York are not of this type. Basically NXEC have not provided any evidence to demonstrate that the problems of fare evasion are of a type and scale that would be best addressed by ticket barriers, particularly given their other obvious disadvantages and cost. It would seem that they were included in the franchise bid without any proper evaluation.

As far as we are concerned York station should not be regarded as “belonging” to National Express, for whom it is just a `capital asset’, and who in all probability won’t be running the station for very much longer anyway. It really belongs to the people of York, who have as much affection for this glorious Victorian building as they have for the other great architectural glories of the city. NXEC should not be allowed to despoil it.

Verna Campbell
Chair, CABYS (Campaign Against Barriers at York Station)

Monday, 11 May 2009

Pedestrian flow analysis at Norwich

National Express have declared in their justification statement for the barrier application at Newcastle that the Scheidt & Bachmann gates they propose to install are capable of letting through "up to" 33 people a minute. Apparently, they've even conducted a "pedestrian flow analysis" to show how well the gates will be able to cope with the number of people using them.

However, passengers in Norwich, where barriers were put in recently, no longer have to wait - they can experience the benefits of the "safety and security" of the barriers at first hand. So secure, in fact, that passengers arriving on the 18.22 from London Liverpool Street had to wait several minutes to get out of the station after arriving.

Here is a description from one passenger, forwarded by Richard Malins:

On Friday 9th May a full trainload of passengers alighted the 16.30 from Liverpool Street at around 18.22 at Norwich station platform 2. (It was particularly full as the 1600 from Liverpool street had been cancelled due to train failure.) Because of the ticket gates it took at least 3 minutes for most people to pass through the ticket gates. There are 5 gates opposite platform 1. However the wide gate was broken and barricaded off. (And was still that way on Monday 11 May at 9am.) Because of the layout, it is difficult for passengers exiting platform 1 to use the second set of gates. So around 400 passengers were trying to get through 4 gates. The photos attached show what it was like, with timings. It took me from 18.23 to 18.27 to exit, and then only because I managed to get to the other set of gates which had been set on open. Needless to say there was no ticket check! I suspect the Meteor Agency staff gave up and just opened all the gates. And there had been no ticket checks on the train.

One passenger standing next to me said, quite unprompted, I used to look forward to arriving at Norwich and know I was home. Not any more. (He had a large airline style ticket.)

One consolation for Norwich fans. The Ipswich gates come into operation on 12 May!

So obviously plenty of benefits to look forward to if NXEC are allowed to install the gates at York and Newcastle. So safe and secure, even the passengers can't get through them!

Friday, 8 May 2009

Revised barrier scheme at York

CABYS has just received news that revised plans have been lodged with City of York Council, though the timescale for a decision is still unclear. You can look at the plans on the CYC planning portal:

Further information to follow shortly.

Decision time on Newcastle barriers

A planning committee will decide on an application for ticket barriers at Newcastle on Friday, 15th May. Local campaigners are gearing up to persuade the committee to turn down the Listed Building Consent. Newcastle railway station is an outstanding Grade II* listed building.

Whilst English Heritage have withdrawn their objections after significant amendments from National Express, Planning Policy Guidance note 15 (PPG15), which is part of the national advice to planning authorities, clearly states that any proposals for change to historic buildings must be justified. Campaigners will therefore be urging the committee to look at the statement of support presented by National Express.

Many of the claims made by National Express in their supporting statement are highly dubious. For example, they claim to have conducted "pedestrian flow analysis" to determine the number of automatic ticket gates required at each station, claiming throughput rates of up to 33 people per minute (higher than is typical on the London Underground where there is a well-established barrier system). The key phrase here is "up to" - as reported in earlier posts, when the barriers have not been switched to "accept all-tickets" mode, in which case they are effectively useless in preventing ticket fraud, up to 30% of valid tickets can end up being rejected. On top of that there are the wheelchair users, people with pushchairs, people with bicycles, heavy luggage, pets and so on, all of which mean that the 33 ppm is in effect a complete fantasy.

On the question of whether there is any business case (in revenue protection terms) the document helpfully states: "Rest assured that the case for gating is very convincing from a commercial perspective, but we cannot divulge particular details for reasons of commercial sensitivity and confidentiality."

Perhaps this reticence has something to do with the fact that the commitment to gating was made as part of NXEC's original franchise bid; however they would not have had sufficient information as part of the bidding process to conduct detailed business case assessments on the effects of gating at each station. So the so called "business case" is at best a fig leaf designed to justify their original commitment to the Department for Transport.

On the subject of railway enthusiasts, the statement says "Likewise, passes can be issued to people wishing to view the building or the locomotives passing through it." Well, clearly passes can be issued, but this does not mean that they will be. In March, Gerry Doherty, the General Secretary of the rail union TSSA, reported that his members had been instructed at a meeting with National Express that trainspotters would be banned "without exception" from ECML stations.

You can view the NXEC statement here:

And Richard Malins' detailed rebuttal of NXEC's claims here:

CABYS would like to give every support to the Newcastle campaigners in their aim to keep the station free of barriers.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

If you can't win the argument....

Apparently there was complete chaos at Sheffield station this morning. East Midlands Trains, who are supposedly still in "negotiation" with the City Council over barriers, decided to turn Sheffield into a closed station and blocked the access route across the footbridge used by many people to get from the Park Hill area to the city centre. The gating scheme has been condemned by councillors and MPs of all parties in the city.

A letter from EMT dated today went to Cllr Ian Auckland, the Council cabinet member with responsibility for transport issues. It says, "As you know, we started to consult our stakeholders about our proposals to install automatic ticket barriers at Sheffield station in early 2008. [....] Unfortunately, and for whatever reason, some stakeholders have remained opposed to this proposal and after more than a year of consultation we are now at an impasse.


"For that reason, and wth regret, from this morning we have started to carry out a rolling programme of revenue protection checks at each end of the station, using our staff [...and...] we will only be able to allow rail ticket holders onto the footbridge."

So there we have it - apparently the "consultation" is not about whether barriers are a good idea or whether there is any sensible and rational justification for them, it's just about minor details. Geraldine Roberts, chair of Residents Against Station Closure, has now written to Jake Kelly, the author of the EMT letter:

Dear Jake

I wonder if you are aware of and or condone the action taken at Sheffield Station this morning? Phone and e-mail messages have been flooding in, the following are samples:
In the week when Lord Adonis has given Sheffield Station top marks for facilities and services, it is appalling that EMT believes it has a mandateto create chaos there in the name of "revenue protection"! A colleague has just reported total chaos at the station this morning:the station was operating as a "closed" station;there were only 4 automatic ticket machines in operation;each had a queue of at least 20 plus huge queues for the staffed booking office which was not fully staffed;

Those without train tickets today had to cross the old bridge to get to the city.I tried to walk past but was prevented from doing so (the officials putting themselves in the way )This does not even meet the suggestions that those crossing without a ticket would have a pass.

People with valid tram tickets were sent away.

You mentioned at the working group meeting in November that if EMT failed to get agreement to the barriers you could resort to "flooding the station with "Heavies" in yellow jackets, to hassle everyone without a ticket". At the time I must admit I thought that this you didn't really mean it and that in fact you would have too much sense to believe that it is really in EMT's best interests to behave in such a manner to the people of Sheffield who are committed to maintaining this vital pedestrian link.

I thought the fact that it it would be an "own goal" from a PR point of view would prevent this type of action being taken, apparently not?

EMT has not submitted documentation to support Listed Building Consent for barriers and the the working group has not met since November 08, so as far as the City is concerned, we are still in discussions with your company. I suggest that you halt this destructive action immediately and let's get back around the table.

Yours sincerely
Geraldine Roberts
Chair- Residents Against Station Closure

With the kind of contempt for customer service exhibited by EMT, how on earth are we supposed to persuade people to use public transport instead of getting into their cars?

Addendum: Sheffield City Council will consider the following motion:

Moved by Cllr Scriven seconded by Cllr Wilson

That this Council: -

(a) is deeply concerned to learn that East Midlands Trains have begun blocking off access through Sheffield Station to non-ticket holders by deploying staff at each end of the Station;

(b) is outraged with the actions of East Midlands Trains who have effectively cut our city in half and ignored the wishes of local people;

(c) notes with disappointment that East Midlands Trains have also outlined that they ‘will continue to work towards installing the barriers’;

(d) welcomes the fact that the Leader of Council has written an urgent e-mail to the Secretary of State for Transport asking him to intervene on this issue;

(e) notes that only the Government can now stop East Midlands Trains blocking off access through Sheffield Station and therefore calls on the Secretary of State for Transport to urgently intervene and withdraw the clause in the franchise which asks for gating to be installed.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Station trading losses from gating

Apparently gating schemes around the country have had a considerable impact on station trading revenue. Richard Malins has reported that information from elsewhere, such as Waterloo, suggests that there is a reduction of at least 10% in overall income, though this can sometimes be greater - one outlet at Cambridge reported a 60% drop in revenue. This is on top of the fact that some trading points have had to be removed entirely to make room for the barriers.

The causes are:
  • The division of the station into paid and unpaid areas, reducing pedestrian flow in both - naturally fewer people will enter the "gated" areas, but also those waiting for a connection are less likely to cross the barrier lines to use shops in the main concourse of the station;
  • The "anxiety" caused by the barriers, meaning that people are focused on getting through them and therefore have less inclination to spend; and
  • The additional time taken to get through the barriers, meaning that people have less time for other activities at the station.

This is another nail in the coffin for National Express's so-called "business case" for the barriers - which as yet they have declined to share with the public or anyone else. The negative effects on station trading will, of course, reduce yet further the scarce funding available for necessary improvements to the rail system.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Duncan Bannatyne experiences the "benefits" of ticket barriers

Duncan Bannatyne certainly didn't mince his words about National Express's service on the East Coast Main Line in a Telegraph article on the 15th April:

"Most weeks I travel between Darlington and Kings Cross by train. The service used to be operated by GNER and I often thought that it was the best train service in the UK. A first-class train ticket is not cheap at £185.50 but at least I could sit down and work on my computer or read in peace.

Unfortunately, GNER went out of business and the service was taken over by another operator, National Express. In my experience this was a disaster. Their first move was to put up barriers at stations to check tickets, along with a sign saying 'No entry beyond this point without a ticket.' That meant my children could no longer wave me off at the station and, even then, my ticket was often checked as I left Darlington, during the journey and on arrival at King's Cross.

You might think the operator should be applauded for its diligence and for creating jobs. Until, of course, you get on board and are told: 'Sorry, no hot food service today due to staff shortages.' Why couldn't one or two of the half dozen ticket collectors be redeployed on the train to serve food? In fact, why couldn't the ticket collectors already on the train help out?"

After reporting on a particular nightmare journey from Darlington to King's Cross, he added:

"If you're reading this and laughing then please stop, it's not funny. However, if you are reading this and looking for a job, call National Express: they might need even more ticket checkers."

If many high-paying travellers such as Mr Bannatyne are put off by National Express's obsession with checking everyone's ticket umpteen times, the inconvenience and delay of ticket barriers, and the cavalier disregard for customer service, this will rapidly eradicate any gains from catching the alleged army of "ticket dodgers". One wonders, for example, how the people paying £300 a day or more to park in the executive car park at York and then travel to London will feel if they find they have to walk all the way round the outside of the station because the barriers on Platform 1 are unstaffed (as they will be for much of the day) and their ticket won't work. It might not be very long before a few brickbats are seen travelling in National Express's direction.

And of course, this once again demonstrates the huge and unquestioned popularity of barriers amongst the travelling public.

Barriers "improve access?"

The following is an extract from a Guardian article that appeared last month, by Dan Milmo:

"The government is considering a £250m stimulus package for the railways aimed at boosting revenues and passenger numbers. It is understood that Network Rail, the owner of Britain's rail infrastructure, has been asked to select projects that can be brought forward at a cost to the taxpayer of between £200m and £250m.

The measures are expected to increase train operator revenues by clamping down on fare dodgers, and increase passenger numbers by making rail travel more attractive for less frequent train users. Network Rail is considering investing the money in improving station access, which train operators believe will boost off-peak travel by attracting the elderly and mothers with young children.

Train operators are keen to sell more off-peak tickets because they are contracted to run a high number of services during quiet times of day, when there is less demand from commuters.

Network Rail is also considering bringing forward investment in ticket barriers. Fare dodging is thought to cost the industry 5% of its annual revenues, or about £270m, and the transport secretary, Geoff Hoon, has asked train operators to propose gating schemes. Lord Adonis, the rail minister, told the Guardian last month that such a scheme would be popular. "There is wide support from passengers for gating because they don't like huge amounts of people not paying for fares that they then have to subsidise." Station car parks would also benefit from the programme."

Richard Malins provided the following response to the points in the article.

The thing is this needs to be exposed before a wider audience, and someone must persuade Adonis, who they say has the brain and interest to see through the nonsense the DfT are peddling, to call a halt to it because:
a) the proposition is basically contradictory - install barriers and make rail travel easier to access and attract the elderly and mothers with children.
b) the estimated 5% of revenue is an unsubstantiated number and the true figures will be more complicated and vary according to circumstances - measurement is difficult and usually not done properly, if at all.
c) barriers only protect a minimum fare, their effectiveness declines with length of journey and are believed to reduce short distance fare evasion by around half.
d) outside the London commuter area the magnetic ticket technology does not properly support gating systems and it is thus highly unreliable where system geography and fares structures are complex.

It's also worth adding that no proper survey has been conducted (as far as CABYS is aware) to determine whether passengers actually support barriers or not. (The oft repeated claims that this is the case seem to come from the approach of Passenger Focus, the official rail watchdog. Passenger Focus does frequently support barriers but has expressed some doubts about the Sheffield and York schemes in particular.)

The story also gets covered in the Railway Eye blog: