Yesterday the opportunity was available for Whitchurch Rail users to Meet the Manager
at the station and I took the chance to put forward some views.
The new Ticket Machine is unreliable which does not sit well with the heavy handedness of many of the SWT Revenue Protection Staff. Railcards and associated discounts are not useable if you cannot use the machine and Penalty Fares are highly likely. In addition some ticket types are unavailable from the machine such as the GroupSave - an excellent good value 3 or 4 for the price of two. Sunlight on the south-facing machine is another problem and it is sometimes unreadable - a complaint that, according to train staff, many have made.
He did promise to take away my concerns particularly the one about drivers who block access to the machine by their inconsiderate parking. I suggested a bollard or two to keep them back a metre or so, an idea that I hope we will have a result on.
The same problem occurs at the Sheffield Cycle Stands round the corner and I showed him the problem. Again he said he would take this forward.
CCTV is apparently within the franchise, but we who use the station regularly have been hearing it will be installed for a number of years now and nothing has appeared. As someone who has been physically attacked at the station at night (nice place isn't it!) I consider it an essential but I am told SWT have limited resources. Oh yeah? Remind me how much Soutar and Gloag took away last year, and how much above inflation fares have risen! Wasn't the Christmas bonus they paid themselves a meagre £75million?
Only sympathetic shrugs were offered when I suggested the buses and trains should work together. There is no coordination between Stagecoach trains and Stagecoach buses - an truly pathetic situation. Integrated ticketing and runabout schemes work in other parts of the country even when the operators are different companies. But here? Sorry its a joke. Our politicians should have been pushing for this too!
The long saga of more parking continues apparently with some moves towards acquiring more land (north of the station?), although the 'Manager' was unclear on this. Personally I'd like to see the parked cars removed from Evingar and Station Road as they block the way for other traffic. It is selfish. Roads are for movement of people and goods not for leaving one's personal chattels on. It restricts movement for others as well as for emergency and other essential services. The same goes for London Road, Newbury Street, Micheldever Road and elsewhere in the
Town. If you don't have somewhere off road to store your vehicle then perhaps you should consider not having one.
Overcrowding on trains was raised and I was assured that the 10-car trains when introduced will help this. No date was offered for this of course. They will also potentially allow more cycle carriage. As the trains are often standing room only I can't really see one extra carriage on a few trains making very much of a difference. The running of three-car trains at weekends and the crush on many of them probably has more to do with SWT not wanting to pay track fees to Network Rail - and of course weekend leisure users are not as important as the weekday peaktime season ticket travellers (am I being cynical?).
Overall I felt the poor chap was on the defensive and was being almost apologetic for his employers. He has a hard job working for a company that seems to be driven more by lining shareholders pockets that providing a good value customer service. If anyone else took the opportunity to put forward their comments I'd love to hear the responses you received and of course this forum is an excellent tool for sharing experiences.