Archive for May, 2008
Northern Rail have started to convert the old Northern Belle office next to Victoria station’s platform 3 into a Customer Information Point to provide help with journey planning and passenger advice.
FOWS welcome this useful new facility for passengers, especially new or infrequent train users. It’s also a welcome improvement to the appearance and facilities of the grand old station which for years has suffered from under-investment in comparison with Piccadilly across the city centre.
For the past year FOWS have been campaigning for Network Rail to address the dangerously large gap between the platform edge and train doorways at Walkden. The unusually high and wide step has seen several people slip terrifyingly between platform and train over the past few years, and presents a massive barrier to elderly, disabled, or mobility impaired passengers.
Network Rail have acknowledged that the ‘stepping distance’ at Walkden is outside current safety standards, but say they don’t have to fix it as it’s an historic problem they’ve inherited.
After Network Rail’s refusal to act FOWS turned to the government’s rail watchdog – the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR). Our first letter was met with a standard reply suggesting there are many stations around the country in a similar condition. We wrote again to stress exactly how large the gaps was at Walkden (it has been measured at 17 inches) and the fact that people have fallen onto the track on several occasions.
Our second letter prompted a site visit by the local safety inspectorate who – amazingly – classified the risk as ‘low’ on one platform and ‘medium’ on the other. On the basis of this the only action is planned is painting ‘Mind the gap’ on the platform and continuing the ‘low platform’ announcements on trains. While these measures may marginally mitigate the risk of an accident, they do nothing at all to help those passengers who struggle to – or simply cannot – board or disembark from trains because of the high step.
We urge all passengers affected by this problem to write to Customer Services at Northern Rail. As tenants of Network Rail, they are in the best position to ask for improvements from Network Rail – if enough complaints are received from passengers.
You may have noticed the smart repainting currently underway at Swinton. Happily the decorators are making their way along the line and Walkden will soon benefit from a repainted canopy and pillars. The pillars – which are hollow and supposed to serve as gutter downpipes – will also be cleaned out so the water can flow through them again.
Network Rail are also going to replace the leaking roof of the booking office and entrance hall, which should also help improve the appearance of the station.