02 June 2011

Chicken & Egg

On this evening's regional Look North news programme, a report was sent in from Rawcliffe in East Yorkshire, a location whose railway station saw annual patronage of 252 passengers during the 2009-10 financial year. Of all the stations in the LEYTR area, it is ranked second-to-bottom, only being outdone by Kirton Lindsey in Lincolnshire for fewer passengers (220).

Train operating company Northern Rail has spent a total of £12,000 here and at Snaith station (2,574 passengers p/a) fitting cycle racks and CCTV to what a local councillor has claimed are 'ghost stations'. Scarborough councillor Nick Harvey made a Freedom of Information Request to ascertain the total spend and believes that the money would be better spent on larger stations that attract more passengers so that a greater number of local residents could cycle there.

However, the initiative that Northern embarked upon, was to encourage patronage at these least-used stations, by improving infrastructure there: the addition of cycle racks being one example. A government grant was made available and as so often with grants of this type, these strings are attached. The train service Snaith and Rawcliffe receive is nowhere near as 'impressive' as that received by Bridlington, for example, so patronage is likely to be lower as a result. If Councillor Harvey thinks £12,000 is a lot of money, he would have a nasty surprise at the cost to add an additional train to the timetable, in the hope of growing patronage.

How do you grow patronage at these smaller stations? What comes first? In these stringent times it is more prudent to improve the infrastructure for locals in the hope that this might have a positive effect. In the LEYTR area, for the period of 2009-10, the number of stations that saw growth was in a minority (a situation reflected nationally), but Rawcliffe was one of these that bucked the trend, seeing an increase of 23% to be precise. It was ranked 8th in our list of stations recording the most growth.

We think it a little ironic that a councillor should make a song and dance about what he considers to be a waste of public funds. How much would East Riding of Yorkshire Council have paid for the same work to be done at Snaith and Rawcliffe? Rest assured there won't be much in it, if at all. The average council pays out around £3k to construct an accessible bus stop kerb. In Lincolnshire, it cost more to make the bus stops along the route length of Service 100 (Lincoln-Scunthorpe) accessible than it did for Stagecoach to splash out on five new buses to work the route.

In the scheme of things, £12k would get you four raised kerbs at four bus stops or a number of cycle racks and CCTV at a couple of railway stations. The fear of crime is always reported as being far greater than the number of crimes committed and CCTV - either love it or loathe it - can help address these fears. Investment has to come first and hopefully growth will follow. £12k is absolutely nothing to spend on minor improvements to a station.

As for the age old question, in a recent episode of comedy show QI, Stephen Fry said that the answer was quite simple: the chicken had to come first. Eggs don't lay themselves.....


Anonymous said...

Councillor Harvey is from Scarborough, right? It has absolutely nothing to do with him as the stations mentioned are in East Yorkshire.

And is this the same councillor who is part of the county council who wants to stop free bus passes being used (as you featured recently).

He should mind his own business and help get his own house's books in order first.

contrarycow said...

Then there is Rauceby station on the Poacher Line. Some 700 / 800 houses being built adjacent to the railway station, but only 2 or 3 trains in each direction stop there. Despite there being no bus service at all the TOC has resisted all suggestion of increased calls by passing trains. Chicken and egg??

Phil Parker said...

Of course if you spend all the money on the bigger stations and then close the small ones down everything is fine. People get in thier cars to go to the station - and then decide to stay in them for the duration of the journay and not use the train at all. This is the mistake Beeching made and it seems the councillor wants the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Just bring your (FOLD UP)cycles on board our trains! Problem solved! 12k saved! Mr B

LEYTR said...

Fold-up cycles are a good idea but when folded up are bulky and awkward and not always the answer if you've also got bags and a laptop etc to carry.

The bus industry will often begin operating to a new estate while it is a virtual construction site in order to get the infrastructure in immediately. This can make the area more attractive to prospective residents.

The DfT would have the final say on additional train services, with the TOC and local authority putting a case forward and specifying where the money would come from to operate the additional train (that's assuming the TOC has a spare train).

And this additional money would be many hundred times more than the £12k 'lavishly' spent at these two stations.

Sadly, the railway industry sees more reaction than proaction. The line would need to have standees on most trains for much of the day to warrant a change to the existing timetable - and even then a lengthier train would probably be used rather than an additional service be provided.