UPDATE: Front page news in Fleet! See the updates section below.
I queried South West trains again about various issues at their Fleet, Hampshire station as a follow-up to my posting a few months back: SouthWest Trains erects The Great Wall of Fleet.
Unfortunately, the South West Trains customer service centre in Southampton did not give answers via their twitter account or via email within their stated timeframe. So, I chased them for answers through my MP. Today, my MP forwarded to me a reply, dated 1 August 2014, from the South West Trains managing director, Tim Shoveller.
Apart from building the Great Wall of Fleet, South West Trains have been busy erecting a new station building, bridge and lifts at a cost of £4.3 million (according to their June newsletter). The car deck is one of 3 projects in a separate £6.3 million scheme to increase car parking spaces at Fleet, Farnborough and Winchester stations.
SECURE PARKING NO MORE
Fleet station used to have a secure bicycle storage facility on the platform next to the old station house, but that was demolished soon after the rebuilding works began; I asked whether it would be making a return.
“The information regarding cycle storage at the station is a very new scheme and the final details have not yet been finalised. We will update our passengers when this information is complete.”
I’m not clear on what Mr Shoveller is getting at there because South West Trains have won awards in 2011 for their secure cycle compounds – 3 years ago now – and as the photo here shows they had secure cycle storage at Fleet already.
(See updates section below regarding the proposed new motorcycle parking in its place)
During the construction over the past year, people who cycle have received no special attention – unlike the people eligible to use new “VIP” car parking spaces – and indeed saw their cycle facilities closed off, or in the case of the secure storage removed all together.
This also isn’t the first time I’ve had someone at South West Trains tell me that their plans for works already underway are not yet finalised!
Speaking of awards, in 2012 South West Trains picked up an award for their “cyclist-focused measures including clear signage.”
I asked about signage at the new Fleet station’s bus and taxi drop-off/pick-up area that is located in front of the entrance to the new station; The signs state that only taxis and buses may enter – why not people on bicycles?
“…there is no signage in place and indeed nor should it be used by cyclists unless doing so recklessly as the area is used for bus pick up and turning in addition to the taxi use. Cycles can be ridden along the same road as the car use, or pushed along the footpath.”
This from the company that won the “2013 Cycle-Rail Operator of the Year” award for their “constant innovation and positive customer attitude.”
It is a shame, to say the least, that Mr Shoveller didn’t think to accommodate space for cycling – say a dedicated, segregated path – in his plans for the front entrance to his spiffy new station.
Instead, all energy appears to have gone into his Great Wall of Fleet car parking deck.
BLENDING IN WITH GREEN PAINT
Speaking of The Great Wall of Fleet, which is visible from the Fleet Pond, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the car deck is now largely complete and open. It is a massively long and high structure that dominates the scene from around the pond.
Tim told me through my MP:
“the car desk (sic) was installed to meet passenger demands and I am sorry your constituent finds it an eyesore.
With the trees in full bloom the car park blends in and the green paint helps.
If the trees and shrubs are allowed to grow along the blank, and not trimmed, then the coverage will improve further.
The structure is as long as we could practically build in order for there to be a positive improvement for our customers and in order to maximise and make the most use of the DfT’s funding. The height is to allow our Alliance partners Network Rail to access the track access gate with large vehicles. This is essential I’m afraid.”
There’s probably no way of knowing how passenger demand changed (or not) at Fleet station over the past couple of years. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the number of passengers going through the station stayed roughly the same? What I mean by that is, I wonder if people when forced not to drive to the station (for the car parking became severely limited during the construction works) chose instead to walk or cycle there; but now that the option to park their car has once again been made available, that they have switched back to driving.
I am surprised that all the local planning officers, councillors and nature organisations permitted a car deck to be built here at all, instead of on the northern side of the tracks which is in a more suburban landscape.
Maybe there were plans to do that, but they hadn’t been finalised in time to get the funding from the Department for Transport?
I guess I will now never know because Tim concluded his letter by stating:
“Due to the amount of correspondence with (sic) has taken place regarding Mr Reeves-Hall’s concerns I am sorry but believe we have reached an impasse now and there is no further information I can provide.”
Update – 28 August 2014: Front Page News!
I made the front page of Fleet News & Mail newspaper…
Update 14 August 2014: Original Plans
a) Looking back through the planning documentation, I found a letter dated 4 January 2012 from Robert Thain, Senior Planner at Hart District Council in which he stated: “Hart would also kindly request that in light of the proposal there is no overall reduction in the number of bicycle spaces to be provided for customers.”
b) The station plan drawing dated 5 May 2012 produced by amey for Network Rail shows new motorcycle parking bays near to where the secure bicycle storage was – note that access to this area would be impossible given the current signage which allows only people driving taxis or buses to enter (or riding bicycles recklessly according to the MD).
c) That same plan includes the comment, “Cycle & Pedestrian Crossing [in the bus & taxi only area] Location of crossing to be finalised under forecourt remodelling works” – I hope that SouthWest Trains and Network Rail take this opportunity to create proper space for cycling at the station forecourt.
Aside: The 2014 Cycle-Rail Awards are taking nominations until 12th September 2014 – details HERE.