Interviews

10.07.17

A development opportunity across the national network

Source: RTM Jun/Jul 17

Simone Bailey, asset management director at Abellio Greater Anglia, talks to RTM about overcoming the different challenges facing stations of varying sizes.

Despite stations being the ‘shop window’ of the sector across the country, it is fair to say that many of them on the national network have been unloved. 

But change, albeit sometimes slow, is definitely on its way. Back in 2015, the Rail Delivery Group’s (RDG’s) Station Strategy Group published its ‘Vision for Stations’ document, which listed the nine principles for the future of Britain’s stations: 

  • Customer-focused
  • Intelligent use of technology
  • Seamless journey experience
  • Reflect local needs and opportunities
  • Safe and secure environment
  • Entrepreneurial spirit
  • Flexible and long-term stewardship
  • Shared industry know-how
  • Optimised network 

Speaking to RTM just before the third Annual UK Rail Station Development and Regeneration Conference, Simone Bailey, asset management director at Abellio Greater Anglia, who sits on the RDG’s steering group, said that vision is very important as “it is where everyone is pulling towards”. 

“There are so many development opportunities across the network nationally,” she said. “I think stations have been undervalued for a long time and they need more attention and for people to understand their performance.” 

Bailey, who was Network Rail’s head of commercial estate before joining the TOC back in 2012, stated that if people really want to make the most of station redevelopment opportunities, “they require shared effort and partnership both with the local authority and TOC, and occasionally social enterprises”. 

Chelmsford waiting room edit

The changing focus of redevelopments 

Abellio Greater Anglia is currently one of only a minority of TOCs to have 99-year station leases, which were introduced at the start of its franchise in 2011 under a DfT initiative. 

“From an operator’s point of view, stations are really important,” said Bailey. “We are lucky that we have the 99-year lease, so in the last five years we probably spent over £50m on stations. We are also good at working with third parties and doing what I call ‘blended funding’: lots of people putting in to really improve the station. 

“It is interesting as people aren’t just thinking about the big ‘sexy’ stations, such as the St Pancrases of this world, and they are now interested in the smaller stations across the network. And this is important as these are the ones that people commute to and from day in, day out.” 

During the last franchise, Abellio invested at stations including Cambridge, Norwich, Ipswich, Chelmsford, Bishops Stortford and Burnham-on-Crouch. As part of the new contract, the TOC has committed to a £60m programme to refresh all its stations. There will also be significant upgrades at Broxbourne, Cambridge, Cheshunt, Harlow Town and Southend Victoria. 

Discussing the work at Chelmsford, which, aside from Liverpool Street, is Abellio Greater Anglia’s busiest station with 5.5 million passenger journeys made annually, Bailey said that key features included a bright, modern and spacious ticket office, which features five accessible, open plan service windows and a glazed roof. 

Funded through the National Stations Improvement Programme (NSIP), backed by the DfT, and the Network Rail Development Fund, the £5m improvements at Chelmsford also benefitted from a new station frontage and stair tower to the London-bound platform. There are also improved retail facilities. 

Ticket machines in booking hall edit

Retail has become key 

Bailey added that retail has become key to station redevelopments: “People expect to be able to buy a coffee in the morning and are not happy if their stations do not do that. From our point of view, it has increased the income of the assets.” 

We are working hard to improve the retail offering at our stations, she said, but the caveat is that it does depend on footfall. 

“The best way to do it is when you refurbish a station, because you get the better customer effect,” reflected Bailey. “On average, after a redevelopment, customer satisfaction has gone up 13%. But at Chelmsford that went up a massive 31%.” 

The redevelopment of Ipswich station is another proud accomplishment for Greater Anglia, RTM was told. This has included a new ticket office, booking hall, gateline and improved retail outlets. And the local authority has recently undertaken work on the forecourt to improve accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists, buses and taxis. 

“We designed Ipswich a bit like an airport,” said Bailey. “We flipped the automatic ticket gates 90°. So, you go in through the station and the ticket office is on your left and the gates are on the right, and then you go through into a nice waiting area and the retail is in there. The council is just finishing the forecourt off, which has had a significant investment. But if you don’t get everyone working together you won’t maximise what you have.” 

The Greater Anglia director added that a common sense and practical approach is required to refurbishing stations, “and you must work with all your stakeholders and communicate well with them, especially with the local authority”. 

“Clarity of vision at the beginning of the project is key,” stated Bailey. She also stressed the importance of NSIP in attracting third-party investment for match funding. 

“The NSIP funding is vital, because you can’t expect other people to invest in the railway unless the railway industry invests in itself,” she said, adding that a lot of Greater Anglia’s improvement work has consisted of blended funding, including the TOC, NSIP and third-party contributions. 

Discussing the upcoming improvement works as part of the new franchise, Bailey said the operator is doing feasibility work on 10 stations at the moment. 

“We are really interested in making a big change,” she stated. “The one big thing the industry has to work on, and which we will be improving, is customer information. About 92% of trains run on time, but when they don’t people need to know what is going on. 

“At the moment, as an industry, I don’t think we are very good at that. That is something key for stations. We are doing a lot of work to connect all the stations up to fast internet that will be seamless between stations and trains, and having digital CIS across stations with manual overrides. We are doing that as well as the nuts and bolts of refurbishment.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION

W: www.tinyurl.com/RTM-Vision-For-Stations

Comments

Andrew Gwilt   10/07/2017 at 19:57

What about upgrading station's that need some upgrade works or refurbishment works. Such as installing new LED information passenger screens at stations that don't have LED information passenger screens and have older information screens that needs replacing with LED information screens. Southend Victoria, Wickford, Billericay, Chelmsford, Shenfield, Colchester, Clacton-on-Sea, Harwich Town, Harwich International, Kelvedon, Marks Tey, Ipswich and other stations on the GA network that have LED information screens installed that have replaced the old information screens. But other stations only have older information screens that doesn't give out as much information and some are ageing. Also some stations could also have step-free access and replacing the current footbridge with new footbridge with stairs, lighting & ramps or lifts for disabled passengers to access from one platform to the other side to get the train much easier. Stations such as Ingatestone, Rayleigh, Hockley, Rochford, Prittlewell, stations on the Crouch Valley Line, stations on the Sunshine Line (Colchester-Clacton/Walton route), stations on the Braintree Line and stations on the Mayflower Line could have step-free access or if some stations don't have step-free could agree on to make some stations step-free accessible for disabled and parents with babies on push prams to access the station more easier and to go from one platform to the other side.

Isobel Kinghorn Burnel III   11/07/2017 at 12:30

Andrew, you may find that reference to the Franchise Agreement, freely available to access on line - answers or at least clarifies all your conjecture.

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