Today marks the start of National Customer Service Week but you’d be forgiven for shaking your head at that after finding out how much South West Trains and Network Rail have let costs escalate and delays mount for their train station at Fleet, Hampshire.
The cost to “revitalise” Fleet train station has mushroomed an incredible 48% to £8,871,000 from an original of £6,000,000 according to figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request – and work has not yet finished, nor will it be for possibly a further year and a half!
Tony Potter, Project Sponsor of Major Network Upgrades at the Department for Transport’s Rail Executive stated in his answer to the FOI,
“I have managed to find out some further information from South West Trains regarding the costs and [from] colleagues in the Department [for Transport] regarding assessment of accesses…”
The FOI answer also revealed a significant delay to completing the Fleet station project itself: the forecourt “reconfiguration” work and additional cycle provision (presumably bicycle parking) is now not to be done until well into 2015, and possibly as late as 2016.
This is in direct contradiction to what South West Trains bragged in a press release on 10 June 2014:
“Increased capacity for car parking and cycle storage has also been introduced at a number of stations [Farnborough, Fleet and Winchester stations].”
In fact, South West Trains have not yet even replaced the secure cycle storage that they ripped out last year at Fleet station!
And another surprise! The FOI answer says that it will be “Hampshire City Council” (sic) that will pay for the forecourt reconfiguration whilst the Department for Transport will be paying for the additional cycle provision and a waiting room.
The DfT Major Network Upgrades Team stated in their FOI answer,
“With regard to the Access for All Programme, Network Rail were required to deliver an accessible route into the station and to and between each platform before March 2015.”
This condition is unlikely to be met because funding for an accessible forecourt is now delayed until the 2015/2016 fiscal year.
CTC FLEET MEETS MANAGEMENT
The Fleet branch of CTC has also been busy campaigning for improvements to the station forecourt so that road danger is reduced and bicycle parking is increased.
Please take a couple minutes now to fill in their “Fleet Cycling Survey“.
Andrew Johnston, chair of Fleet Cycling, stated last week on his blog (HERE) that he met with 3 managers of South West Trains to discuss the bicycle provision at the station.
Andrew discovered from the managers that:
“…we are getting new cycle racks at Fleet station including 78 in a secure compound…
Total bike storage will be increased to 210 bike spaces (but something tells me that still won’t be anything near enough) from 138 spaces before improvement Works started.”
UPDATE: A count of bicycle spaces this afternoon found only 128 available (some were removed when the Works began).
Andrew went on to state that the managers told them that South West Trains are:
“…unwilling to relocate the Premium Parking bays from the station forecourt to within the double deck car park as we proposed to provide a safe cycle lane out of the station.”
Well, there goes the National Customer Service Week nomination! And it’s looking increasingly difficult for South West Trains to follow-up on their “2013 Cycle-Rail Operator of the Year” award in this year’s Cycle-Rail gala later this month.
The decision to keep the premium parking bays in the forecourt instead of providing a safer passage for people who choose to walk and cycle is a major disappointment. South West Trains and Network Rail should rightly be condemned for it.
Cycling to the station is very popular: A twice-daily survey (at 9am then at 5pm) spanning a week in late September found an average of 158 bicycles parked on the platforms and in the forecourt. The least number of parked bicycles counted was 112 and the most was 184. Some people were seen taking folding bicycles on to and off of trains, which means even more people were cycling to the station.
The thing is, Andrew Johnston of Fleet Cycling states there was just 138 spaces available before the Works began!
No wonder why there are bicycles chained up to fences all around the station!
(Aside: Visit and you will also see motor scooters parked up on the pavement alongside the bus- and taxi-only area, which makes access for people in wheelchairs difficult.)
The South West Trains managers told CTC Fleet Cycling that they will have 210 bicycle spaces available once the works are complete (remember that could be in a year and a half’s time, in 2016!).
That’s 76 additional bicycle parking spaces, then. Hold that thought.
COST PER PARKING SPACE
Let’s have a look at a couple of the details revealed about the costs in the FOI…
- Taxpayer money (to be) spent for people cycling: £ 250,000
- Taxpayer money spent for people driving: £2,060,000 plus an additional £750,000 for a car-centric new forecourt in the years to come, for a total of £2,810,000.
Now, what does that get us?
- 76 additional bicycle parking spaces; and,
- 200 additional car parking spaces
Doing the maths, that’s:
- £2,917 for each of the additional bicycle parking spaces
- £14,050 for each of the additional car parking spaces
Aside: there is a item in the FOI showing £450,000 (to be) spent on “One canopy/waiting room” which will permit some number of people – a dozen? just 8? – to wait for their train in an enclosed area.
The figures obtained make no mention whatsoever of the £300,000 from Hart District Council that they supposedly agreed to pay as “partnership funding” back in December 2012.
South West Trains stated in an email on 19th August that,
“We have been liaising closely with Hart [District Council] and HCC [Hampshire County Council] as well as our station management to ensure the new forecourt layout works for all.”
But Daryl Phillips at Hart District Council said later that same day,
“I not aware of on going discussions or detailed designs being submitted to the District Council for comment. There were correspondence in the past with Hampshire County Council but nothing that I am aware of for over a year.”
So, local taxpayer’s money was given over with a request to increase bicycle parking (which hasn’t been done) and South West Trains claims it has consulted with the council on how it is spending on the forecourt but defers implementation for up to a year and a half and then takes Hampshire County Council money as well!
If I was a Councillor in Hants District Council or Hampshire County Council then I know I would probably be having a heart attack right about now!
LET DOWN AT EVERY LEVEL
South West Trains stated on 26 September 2014 that work had just begun and that the entire project would take seven months ie to April 2014.
In fact, the new footbridge opened 3 months later than that, in July. The “revitalised” station house was 4 months late, as it opened in August.
The original forecourt remains as it was but with a vast increase in motor traffic: the new car deck created an additional 200 spaces for car parking.
This means the road danger for people walking and cycling to Fleet station has increased, with no visible risk mitigation put in place by South West Trains, Network Rail, Hart District Council, Hampshire County Council, or the Department for Transport.
In other words, we have been let down by every level of government!
The situation now at Fleet station’s forecourt is critical, and it appears that South West Trains is content to let people who are driving, cycling, walking and taking public transit to fend for themselves in the forecourt for months – or even years – to come.
And yet we had Baroness Kramer, Minister of State for Transport saying as recently as 4th July,
“We are transforming cycling facilities at stations up and down the country to make it easier to choose the bike for the journey to the station.”
The local newspaper in Fleet picked up on the forecourt and parking saga with a front page article and photo on 28 August 2014 topped with the headline: “Cyclists ignored in station revamp“.
Gosh knows what they’ll publish now! Maybe even Private Eye might start to take an interest, too!