Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Barriers to progress

Posted in Customer service, Great Britain by Chairman Pip on 2 March 2010

Ticket barriers are, I suppose a necessary evil in the fight against fare dodging. However, there’s no doubt that they can be a hassle, and so there should be a degree of common sense that goes into deciding where they are to be installed. In London, they first appeared in London Underground stations in the late 1980s, but only became apparent on the national rail network towards the end of the following decade. Now, using them in commuter stations that have a (relatively) high frequency of services that people use every day to travel (relatively) short distances is a good idea, hence most local stations in London have them. What isn’t a good idea is installing them at major stations that run long distance express trains. Let me give you a for example – there are 13 major termini in London, all of which are commuter stations. However, six of them (Liverpool Street, King’s Cross, St Pancras, Euston, Paddington and Waterloo) all operate trains that serve “intercity” destinations, which usually involve travel with a great deal of luggage and hassle. Installing barriers for these services is a poorly thought out idea. There is something of a more well thought out solution to this at Euston, where the local and suburban services use Platforms 8-11 (of 18); the entrance to these platforms has barriers, while the remainder, used primarily by Virgin Trains (and some long distance London Midland services), do not. Of course, this is fine for terminal stations, where the trains are usually approached from the front (or the back, depending on how you look at it), so that all platforms can be accessed from the same part of the station. But most major regional stations have their station buildings side on to the platforms, meaning you have to cross some or all of the running lines to reach the rest of the platforms (York is a good example). York’s main intercity platforms are 3 and 5, of which 3 is connected directly to the concourse and 5 is over the footbridge. Platforms 9, 10 and 11 are also used for intercity services. Most of the remainder are north or south facing bay platforms for local services. Yet both the DfT and National Express had the hair brained idea to fit barriers at the station entrance, thus cutting off the entire platform complex from friends and relatives helping people with their luggage onto trains, or to help them off trains. Fortunately this idea has been abandoned (not least because it would have also cut off a public throughroute to the National Railway Museum that was installed by GNER), but, if they wanted to, why not fit the barriers at the entrances to the bay platforms that they would be the most use at? Of course, there are some major stations where barriers are already in situ, such as Nottingham, and which already prevent friends and loved ones descending onto the platform. It is here that the concept of the platform ticket should be encouraged. These, to the best of my knowledge (though if I’m wrong feel free to tell me) are still available for people to use at the cost of a few pence allowing a brief period of time on the platform. But they are not widely advertised, presumably because the price does not justify the cost in terms of time and material. And yet fares are the most expensive in Europe, so why not, if you are going to put in barriers, divert a little of that money into a service that many people would appreciate.

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5 Responses

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  1. Claire said, on 3 March 2010 at 4:38 pm

    Ooh, you’ve elaborated on my idea. 😀 I didn’t think platform tickets were available these days, so it’s interesting to discover that they seem to be. I think there could be a bigger market for them if they were better advertised and more readily available. The rail companies would make money from them, travellers’ friends and relatives could see travellers off properly and rail enthusiasts would get no end of pleasure out of them. Look at what happened to us at Euston after the Tim Vine show… I mean, it didn’t occur to that man that we could have had platform tickets.

    Regarding the hassle of using barriers when you’ve got luggage, it can be difficult but my opinion on that is that they should install more of the gates designed for wheelchairs and pushchairs etc. – either that or design new ones for luggage carriers. It can be tricky getting through the narrow gap of the majority of gates when you’ve got luggage.

    Something that gets me is having my ticket checked on the train after leaving St Pancras. What is the point of the barriers if staff are going to do the same on-board ticket inspection? Even before the barrier installation, you were not allowed onto the train at St Pancras unless a member of staff had checked your ticket before you walked onto your platform. No need for on-board inspection there.

    Another problem I have with barriers is the fact that technical problems could hold you up through no real fault of your own and every second can count when you’re trying to catch a train.

    I get the impression a lot of people are fed up about the barriers. I can see their advantages and I am sort of in favour of them but I certainly don’t see why non-travellers can’t have access to the platforms.

    Did you simply remember which platform numbers served which services at York? I’m impressed!

    • Chairman Pip said, on 3 March 2010 at 5:14 pm

      Remember?? You have far too high an opinion of my faculties!!! Opinions are my own, facts come from research

  2. Claire said, on 3 March 2010 at 7:29 pm

    I thought you probably had researched, but I also know you have a memory as capacious as an elephant’s you-know-what. 😀

  3. PiterJankovich said, on 31 March 2010 at 8:05 am

    My name is Piter Jankovich. oOnly want to tell, that your blog is really cool
    And want to ask you: is this blog your hobby?
    P.S. Sorry for my bad english


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