Commons Gate

Personal Passenger Safety in Railway Stations (HC 1057-i)

Transport Committee 19 Apr 2006

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Evidence given by Mr George Muir, Director General, Association of Train Operating Companies, Mr David Franks, Managing Director, National Express Group, Mr Ian Dobbs, Chief Executive, Rail Division, Stagecoach Group, Mr Andrew Haines, Managing Director, Railways, First Group, Mr Keith Luderman, Chief Executive, Rail, Go-Ahead Group, and Mr Robin Gisby, Network Rail, Chief Constable Ian Johnston CBE QM BSc (Hons), British Transport Police; Mr Len Porter, Chief Executive, Rail Safety and Standards Board; and Mr Colin Foxall, Chairman, and Ms Christine Knights, Board Member, Passenger Focus, Derek Twigg, a Member of the House, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport.

Mr Luderman: You tend to have control rooms where you have large stations that then allow you to speak to the smaller stations in your network. We are able to speak to most of our stations from various points within our network, so we have a long-line PA and we can reach most of our customers in that way.

Q36 Mr. Eric Martlew: On that very point, recently in the Underground there has been a situation where somebody is watching the monitor and announces this young lad has either jumped over the gate or whatever, and it is very reassuring to the public that somebody on the PA sees something happen and announces it and puts a spotlight on the individual. Is that something you are thinking of continuing or expanding?

Mr Haines: We are just in the process this week of letting a contract for the Trans-Pennine Express for all its stations, and that is very much an integrated system where we will buy customer information systems at the same time as a CCTV intelligent network.

Mr Franks: I was going to make two quick points. One was that our own facilities within National Express Group are being upgraded too, so we do not have just analogue systems, wherever we can we upgrade. On c2c - that is the route between London-Southend-Shrewburyness, for example - it is completely digital. We are just about to build a control centre which will be manned 24 hours a day and do the sorts of things that have just been described. That is the way forward. The other point I wanted to make very quickly is that I am not sure whether the Committee has seen the guidance note that has been issued for CCTV on stations. It is a joint guidance note between ATOC, the British Transport Police and Network Rail and it does cover a number of the things that have just been talked about. I have a copy here which I am prepared to leave behind.

Chairman: That is very helpful.


Q51 Chairman: How do they know there is an incident if they are not actually looking at the screens?

Mr Luderman: Because it is reported.

Q52 Chairman: So you have to wait for the train staff to tell you "we had a problem on the Liverpool line" before you realise ---

Mr Luderman: You have to wait for the train to get back into the depot.

Mr. Eric Martlew: So it is not live transmission to the depot.

Q53 Chairman: So it is not live transmission, it is a recording and someone has to draw your attention to a particular incident?

Mr Luderman: Our staff or the individuals involved in the incident will make a report. We gather the report and we will check back.


Q137 Mr. Eric Martlew: Listening to yourselves and the previous witnesses, is station security a success story, is it getting better, or do I believe what I read in the papers?

Chief Constable Johnston: I think it is a mixed bag. In some places there have been big improvements and some places are pretty grim and people are quite right to be anxious about spending time there. I do think there are lots of good initiatives going on so the situation overall is getting better. As a police force we have had better support in the last year or so to enable us to make a contribution to it. Developments in CCTV are very positive although I do share Robin Gisby's comments about more investment needed in the monitoring and use end of the business to get the full investment returns out of it. The front end is not quite done but enough has gone into it, it is more in the back end and how we utilise the materials like CCTV and the like. I think the picture is improving. Crime was down last year, it was down the year before on the railways by small percentages but it is a step in the right direction. I do think overall that we are going in the right direction but not fast enough.

Q138 Mr. Eric Martlew: Chief Constable, earlier you indicated that you needed legislation and then you appeared to contradict yourself to the extent that you said you could put it in through the franchise. Politicians know the idea that you are going to get legislation quickly is very unlikely. What would you say?

Chief Constable Johnston: I was clumsy with my language there. I regard the franchise as a regulatory requirement when I was talking about a legal basis for it. There needs to be a regulatory requirement which is mandatory and not an opt-in and opt-out basis.

Q139 Mr. Eric Martlew: And you would put it in the franchise?

Chief Constable Johnston: I would see an easy route through the franchise.

Mr Foxall: The satisfaction levels from passengers in surveys we do show a steady improvement in this and although it is not great, you have got 60 per cent levels of satisfaction in general with personal safety. I agree with the Chief Constable, I think it is extremely variable and one of the things I would like to do later on is have a look at the variability in a much more careful way but it is interesting that the general perceptions are not as bad as you would like to think.

Q140 Chairman: I cut Mr Porter off before so I must give him another chance.

Mr Porter: I am glad that I have been given the opportunity to come back in because that is exactly the point I wanted to make. We have done some general research on perception and the issue of societal concern. Without being too generalistic, it is largely associated with media hype and there is no real concrete reason for societal concern with personal security on the railway, and an awful lot of this is driven again by the media. That does not matter to the public, the public have a perception of a problem and that we must deal with by communicating in the right way.

Q141 Mr. Eric Martlew: Are you saying that the media are frightening people?

Mr Porter: Yes.

Chairman: I think any minute now Chief Constable, you are going to find yourself censoring the newspapers, that would be a good rally.

Clive Efford: Can I clarify, I may have missed your answer earlier on, if I did I apologise. Mr Foxall or Ms Knights, do you agree that all stations should be manned at all times when trains are running?

Chairman: Staffed, I think.

Q142 Mr. Eric Martlew: That is not like you, Chairman.

Mr Foxall: I do not think we have answered that yet. I think the answer to that is passengers like to see people around, it would be a good thing. We have campaigned for ticket offices to be manned in London. We generally oppose reductions of manning on trains and things of that kind.

Q143 Clive Efford: I am still not clear, is the answer yes or no?

Mr Foxall: The answer, of course, is yes but the reality is that the train companies find that difficult to respond to.


Q217 Mr. Eric Martlew: Can we go back to the policy which appears to be to push up standards through tightening the franchise, improving the franchise, and that seemed to be the view of the Chief Constable, as opposed to new legislation. You mentioned that you want 80 per cent of secure stations from South Western trains.

Derek Twigg: Of the footfall.

Q218 Mr. Eric Martlew: What is it at the present time?

Derek Twigg: In terms of what we have asked them to do?

Q219 Mr. Eric Martlew: You are asking them to improve to 80 per cent of the footfall at the stations but what is it at the present time? Is it a high target for them or are they already there?

Derek Twigg: I could not give you the answer to that today. I can come back to you on that.

Q220 Mr. Eric Martlew: You mentioned Northern Trains and I have two stations just outside my constituency that could be closed. Obviously my concern if they had been fully staffed would have been the economics would have been such that they would have closed. Nobody has mentioned the cost of security. Do you believe that there is a case for increasing the take from the fare box and putting up prices to increase security on the railways?

Derek Twigg: Sorry, putting up the price of rail so we can increase security?

Q221 Mr. Eric Martlew: For example, in Spain they put a tariff on the ticket which pays for security. Do you think that is a policy that should be taken up here?

Derek Twigg: You come to an interesting area in terms of the price of railway tickets. Our policy remains, as you well know, it is RPI plus one. There is over 87 million a week being spent on the railways. A lot of the staff and a lot of the security cameras are already there and a lot of the other improvements are part of that money, which is a significant improvement from where we were a few years ago. In terms of staffing generally it comes back to the issue I am trying to make a point on. It does not mean that every station needs to be staffed, that may not be the best solution.

Q222 Mr. Eric Martlew: I am not arguing with that. I am not arguing for the Government to put extra money in. What I am saying is if the train operating companies came to you with a good security case saying, "We can improve security at stations by this much but we need to increase prices", what would be your view of that?

Derek Twigg: As you know, we are currently reviewing the Saver tickets and fares but I would not like to say at this stage that we have not had that approach. We would listen to any approach made by the train operating companies but our policy remains as it is.

This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

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On behalf of Eric Martlew, 3 Chatsworth Square Carlisle Cumbria CA1 1HB