Rail 2014 - Public Consultation

Rail 2014 - Public Consultation

Rail 2014 - Public Consultation

7 - Scottish stations

7.1 Stations are the access point to the rail network for rail passengers and as such their location, facilities, and integration with other transport modes, are crucial to ensuring that rail services are utilised for the benefit of Scotland. Stations allow for connections to other transport modes and the view of Network Rail is that a "well positioned and designed station enables passengers to easily access the facilities they require, to find up-to-the-minute relevant information, buy tickets, shelter from the elements and easily interchange to the next leg of their journey"[22].

7.2 There are currently 350 railway stations in Scotland. All of these, except for Prestwick International Airport Station, are owned by Network Rail. Network Rail manages Glasgow Central (high level) and Edinburgh Waverley stations and the rest are leased to ScotRail and operated by them, except for Dunbar which is operated by East Coast[23].

Location of stations

7.3 The oldest railway station in Scotland which is still in operation is Broughty Ferry, which opened in 1838. Over the following years stations have been opened across the country in response to particular circumstances, but predominantly to increase the geographical accessibility of the rail network. Through providing rail access to and from areas where previously rail journeys were not possible new stations assist with a number of strategic aims such as stimulating sustainable economic growth or encouraging modal shift.

7.4 The operation of new stations may however make conditions worse for existing passengers: by increasing journey times due to stopping at the additional stations, and potential overcrowding as a consequence of increased patronage. Therefore, in considering opening new stations a balance has to be struck between providing economic and social benefits for the local area, and the effects of increasing journey times to existing services on the route. Before any new station is proposed all transport options should be assessed using the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance, which looks at transport needs more generally. Proposals for new stations also need to follow Network Rail's Investment in Stations: A guide for promoters and developers.

7.5 The Scottish Ministers are involved in the decision relating to the opening of any new station on the Scottish network. The current policy is that new stations, subject to a positive STAG appraisal, will be considered favourably where the surrounding population, workplace or visitor need is sufficient to generate a high level of demand.

7.6 We are keen to improve access to the rail network by local communities on existing routes through the provision of additional stations. We are considering the extent to which we should widen opportunities to fund and operate new stations so as to permit third parties to play a part. This would allow local groups and organisations (e.g. local authorities, Regional Transport Partnerships, businesses, charities), to fund and promote services that meet local needs. The development proposals for such stations would need to consider, and address, the potential impact on the rail network. There would also need to be a contractual commitment from train operators to call at the station, and amendments to track access contracts with Network Rail.(see Section 3, Third Parties).

7.7 We would also expect stations that are owned by other organisations to be at least the same standard in terms of design, branding, maintenance and facilities, as other similar stations on the Scottish network. We welcome views on the merits of permitting greater third party involvement, and the issues for consideration.

7.8 The railway network is dynamic. Just as new lines and facilities are added to the network to meet increased demand, so, from time to time, closures and network modifications need to be considered in the light of changing operational needs and passenger travel patterns. In Scotland any station closures have to be agreed by the Scottish Ministers and guidance was published in 2006 which sets out an objective test that must be satisfied if closure is to be permitted. In brief, the test ensures that a closure cannot be pursued if the benefit to cost ratio of retaining the service, station or network is 1.5 or over.

7.9 The costs of running a station include the leasing costs (payments from the franchisee to Network Rail), maintenance costs, and in some cases staffing costs. Table 5 illustrates the relatively high number of stations in Scotland that currently serve less than 20 passengers per week. These have associated annual leasing costs of £650,000. A basic, unstaffed station also requires a significant annual sum to operate since it needs to be illuminated, cleaned, kept supplied with relevant information and will have at least a public address system and a help point. Where the station is used by only a few passengers per week the fares revenue generated does not even cover the operating costs, let alone the leasing costs.

Table 5: Passengers and Stations
Passenger numbers (2010-11) Number of Scottish stations Total lease costs
Annual footfall (entries and exits) Average no. return of passengers per week
Less than 500 Up to 5 16 £306,000
501 – 1000 6-9 8 £84,000
1001-2000 10-19 13 £260,000
    Total – 37 Total £650,000

Source: First Scotrail

7.10 There are also a number of stations on the rail network that are located in close proximity to one another. In the Glasgow commuter area, there are 11 stations located less than one mile from another rail station offering similar services. The lease costs associated with these 11 stations total £208,000.

7.11 We do not intend to reduce the size of the Scottish rail network, or reduce the number of stations, but we are considering whether it would be possible to re-configure the network by reviewing the location of stations. We would welcome views on what locations may be more appropriate for stations and which current stations are no longer required. Overall, we are considering the location of stations that could offer the greatest benefits to Scotland.

Accessibility of stations

7.12 We are currently working to improve access to the rail network for all potential passengers. Of the 350 stations in Scotland, the majority (73%) have step-free access to and between platforms and can be considered accessible.

7.13 Funding has been allocated through the Department for Transport's Access for All programme to improve access at stations, with the Scottish Ministers determining which stations should be improved. Since 2006 eight stations have been made step-free, four are at the design stage, and more are expected to be improved through this funding stream by 2014.

7.14 In addition, under the current franchise agreement, the franchisee has set aside discrete funding to deliver minor access improvements to facilities for disabled passengers. This has provided an opportunity to explore ways of improving access to services for a wider range of disabilities, such as sensory impairment.

7.15 We are currently considering how access improvements should be funded and specified in the future.

Station ownership and operation

7.16 The majority of the railway stations in Scotland are owned by Network Rail and leased and operated by the franchisee. However the franchisee tends to lease only those parts of the station buildings or associated land that it requires to deliver its services, with remaining parts retained by Network Rail.

7.17 This split of ownership can result in inconsistencies in the way that stations are both maintained and developed with certain parts of a building being subject to different maintenance regimes. For example, in some stations, station walls are being maintained by ScotRail to a certain height and by Network Rail above this height. Such an arrangement is neither cost or operationally efficient.

7.18 Consequently, we are considering whether arrangements should be put in place so that only one organisation is responsible for managing and maintaining the station.

7.19 It could be argued that the franchisee, in providing rail passenger services, is closest to the customer and would therefore be best placed to manage the stations. Currently, the franchisee is required to hand back stations at the end of the franchise term in the condition in which they were received. The franchisee is therefore incentivised to maintain the facility, but not to invest in improvements which will last beyond the length of the franchise. If the franchisee was to have more of a commercial interest in the operation of stations, this could lead to investment in both maintaining and improving the facilities. Safeguards would need to be put in place to ensure that long term asset management is carried out and that capital investment is appropriately remunerated at the end of the franchise..

7.20 However, alternatively, Network Rail as the owner of the station might be best placed to manage and maintain its property as it will have an interest is ensuring that its asset is properly maintained.

7.21 We would welcome views on how responsibility for stations might be structured.

7.22 We are also considering whether the franchisee should have the contractual freedom to decide to sub-lease to a third party the operation and management of some or all of the stations. In that way other groups such as community groups, innovative business organisations, and local authorities could become involved in operating stations. In these cases there would need to be demonstrable benefits for passengers and potential efficiency and cost savings to the franchise.

7.23 Currently ScotRail encourages local groups to become involved in supporting their local station through its Adopt a Station scheme. Successful projects include Pitlochry Station Bookshop and the Clyde Model Railway Club at Lanark, and more than one hundred stations which have been adopted by volunteer gardeners.

7.24 We currently provide funding for the Stations Community Regeneration Fund (SCRF). This £1 million fund aims to bring into use disused station buildings to provide a business or community need or as a community project that creates new opportunities for job creation and community involvement. We are considering what more can be done to increase community engagement and would welcome views.

Station Facilities

7.25 There has been considerable investment over the last few years in facilities on Scottish stations. The current franchisee has invested around £20 million on delivering front line improvements to passenger facilities at stations such as new lifts at Haymarket, CCTV, help points, toilets, waiting shelters, ticket office upgrades and customer information systems. The Scottish Government also provided £20 million for small schemes work between 2006 and 2008, and this provided expanded car parks, ticket vending machines, CCTV and customer information systems. We are keen to ensure that these facilities are maintained and improved under the next franchise. We are also keen to ensure that passengers have clarity over what facilities can be expected at what station.

7.26 Accordingly, we are proposing to categorise stations according to the type of rail passenger services that utilise the station. This categorisation will then determine what facilities are available at the station, and stations which are more than one type will require the facilities of all of those types.

7.27 The types of characteristics which we are considering include car parking, staffing levels, shops, toilets and wash rooms, information boards and shelter.

7.28 We would welcome consideration of the concept of categorising stations so that users can be assured of the facilities that are provided and secondly whether the categories used are appropriate.

Table 6: Proposed Station Types
Principle Larger stations at which inter-city services call.
Commuter Within the catchment area of a city or other centre of employment, busiest at peak times in the day.
Interchange Offering interchanges between rail services.
Destination Stations where a large proportion of users are travelling with a specific purpose, i.e. close to facilities such as universities, prisons and ports.
Tourist Rural lines with tourist destinations, such as Fort William and Kyle of Lochalsh.
Other Providing local transport connections.

7.29 For example commuter stations may benefit from car parking more than destination stations, as commuters are more likely to make use of Park and Ride facilities. Conversely, at a number of destination or tourist stations passengers will be visitors only, making return journeys by train, therefore there may be less demand for parking.

7.30 Facilities such as toilets and washrooms may not be necessary at commuter stations with a frequent service if there are toilet facilities on the train. At interchange stations, or stations with less frequent services, toilet facilities may be more of a priority, and at stations where longer-distance and sleeper services call, wash rooms may also be a practical addition to improve passenger comfort.

7.31 Information boards will be useful at all stations to provide passengers with necessary information about the services stopping there and other local transport connections.

7.32 Railway stations are a crucial element in our overall aim to provide sustainable, integrated and cost-effective public transport alternatives to the car, connecting people, places and work across Scotland. Where those stations also provide access and facilities to enable people to use other transport modes, their value to Scotland will be greatly enhanced.

7.33 Where passengers access stations by car, we are keen to see an increase in electric vehicle charging points at railway station car parks in order to facilitate the shift to low carbon vehicles.

7.34 The provision of car parks at railway stations was the subject of a separate consultation in 2009 and we are therefore not seeking particular comments on this aspect in this consultation[24].

7.35 Currently all of the stations, where practical, have cycle storage facilities and the current franchisee is involved in several cycle-hire and cycle-promotion activities with other partners. Many stations have information with details of bus services from the station, and all stations have an "onward journey map". Some of the stations are linked to the ferries, and all major airports can be reached via a combination of rail and bus services.

Questions
24 How should we determine what rail stations are required and where, including whether a station should be closed?
25 What are the merits or issues that arise from a third party (such as a local authority or local business) being able to propose, promote and fund a station or service?
26 Should only one organisation be responsible for the management and maintenance of stations? If this was the franchisee how should that responsibility be structured in terms of leasing, investment, and issues relating to residual capital value?
27 How can local communities be encouraged to support their local station?
28 What categories of station should be designated and what facilities should be available at each category of station?