Harborough rail users
Improving the quality of Market Harborough's rail service
The train operating companies, both individually such as EMR, and collectively through the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), launched a consultation on a proposal to close most station ticket offices throughout the country. They state that only 12% of ticket sales are now made at ticket offices; EMR say that only 5% of their tickets are sold this way. The majority of tickets are now sold online or via mobile phone apps, or at self-service ticket machines. The instigator of this proposal is the Government, which wants to reduce costs and ‘modernise customer service’. The stated aim is not to de-staff the stations; rather, it is to bring ticket office staff out from behind the glass and into more wide-ranging ‘customer help’ roles around the station. There is a parallel here with the changes recently seen in the banks and supermarkets. More on the RDG’s position can be found here: https://media.raildeliverygroup.com/news/proposals-to-update-the-railway-for-how-passengers-use-it-today
However, the proposals are proving controversial.
We in Harborough Rail Users accept modernisation on the railways just as much as anywhere else. For Market Harborough, the proposal is to close the ticket office and to reduce staffing hours at the beginning and end of the operating day. Staff will still be available to assist passengers, but we also wonder about the implications for them if the ticket office is closed. Will they be expected to be on their feet all day in the booking hall as well as their duties on the platforms? In any case, our station team are already multi-skilled, undertaking various customer-facing duties around the station.
We therefore have serious concerns about the implications of what is proposed, both for station users and the staff. Among these are:
Window of opportunity: the ticket office staff provides much advice and assistance to passengers as well as simple selling tickets, plus other services such as longer-term season tickets and the accompanying photocards; refunds, and cycle-hub fob keys; none of which are available through the ticket machines. Will the full range of services still be available at the station if the ticket office closes?
Photo: Steve Jones
Have your say. Please respond to the consultation,
DEADLINE EXTENDED TO FRIDAY 1ST SEPTEMBER:
You can also write to your MP.
Contact email addresses for our local MPs are:
The two self-service ticket machines in the booking hall at Market Harborough. These are quite versatile, selling a wide range of tickets. The one on the right accepts cash as well as card payments. There are two more, card-only, machines in the car park kiosk. They all sell most tickets, but not everything that is available through the ticket office. They can also be temperamental; for example, they have been known not to accept railcards, or issue pre-purchased tickets.
Photo: Steve Jones
We are not opposed to modernisation, but it must be done in a way that does not disadvantage anyone. The railway is a public service that must be accessible and available to all.
Revisions have been made to the station forecourt area. The area previously occupied by a temporary toilet block has been marked out with six disabled parking bays, and the taxis have been moved to a small area on the opposite side, next to the railway embankment; this area remains constrained by the new temporary toilets.
Harborough Rail Users have asked about plans for the forecourt once the temporary toilets have been replaced by a new permanent facility at platform level. One serious limitation at the station is the almost complete absence of short-stay parking; that at the entrance to the main car park only has four bays and is clearly marked 'Drop off only - no waiting'. That makes it unavailable for anyone arriving by car to meet someone off a train. The forecourt currently only has two general-use parking bays (complete with the ludicrous Pay & Display machine!). Given the sheer scale of the main car park, it is extraordinary that a station serving a large car-dependent rural catchment area has such inadequate short-stay parking! We shall continue to pursue this with EMR.
We would also like to see a barrier installed on the edge of the pavement immediately outside the main building entrance doors. This would channel people leaving the station onto the pavements to left and right, and thereby, for example, stop children running out into the vehicle area.
Revised parking arrangements: new disabled parking bays outside the main building at Market Harborough station.
We await details of further revisions to the layout of the station forecourt once the temporary toilet block has been replaced by a new facility at platform level.
Picture: Steve Jones
On 29th January, Harborough Rail Users we invited consulting engineers JNP Group to take part in a public consultation on proposals to demolish the now-closed 1970s building at the south end of Platform 1 and construct a new building with toilets and a waiting room further along the platform. The short connecting ramp between the original Victorian ramp up from the booking office and the platform is to be reconstructed with a shallower angle of slope. A small canopy is proposed for the top of the ramp in place of the 1970s building.
The timescale for the work is between July 2021 and March 2022 and it is long overdue. HRU responded on 12th February, welcoming the project overall. We feel the optimum location for the new building is immediately south of the footbridge. We set out our views on the amenity and accessibility implications, especially as the new platforms are surprisingly narrow given the availability of land. We asked whether the disabled-accessible toilet will be of the ‘changing places’ kind, and commented on the furnishing and finish of the waiting room; plus the weather-protection at the top of the ramp once the 1970s building has gone. We also called for the new structures to have some ‘warmth’ in their design, including sympathetic architectural treatment of the area around the top of the Victorian ramp.
We now await further information about the project. Once built, the temporary toilet cabin in the station forecourt can be removed, which allow the forecourt to be tidied up and the layout reviewed in terms of pedestrian and vehicle safety.
At the 2018 AGM on 29th November, Harborough Rail Users reviewed the past year’s activities and set the scene for campaign topics for the next year.
Important decisions will be made over the next few months that will have a major effect on our station and train services for many years to come.
The main issues for Harborough Rail Users are:
Last September, the DfT announced the next round of Access for All funding for railway stations. Funds from a national allocation of £300m must be bid for by 'local delivery groups', which for Market Harborough means East Midlands Trains and Network Rail. They are including additional accessibility enhancements for our station in their overall bid for the EMT network.
HRU and Harborough MP Neil O'Brien have both submitted letters in support of this bid, which seeks funding towards an additional lift between the booking office and the new northbound platform, plus an accessible toilet on the new southbound platform. The DfT is due to announce its decision in April 2019.