Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Railway Stations

From John Redwood's Blog

Last Friday it was good to be present at the official opening of the new station, after so many years of pressing Network Rail to build one. The new building will offer better facilities and provides a much more impressive gateway to the town than the old structure, which the railway  kept well beyond its useful life.

I'm really puzzled as to why people care so about improving stations. The government spent a fortune doing up St Pancras, something like £800m. Reading Station is getting something like an £850m overhaul (OK, part of that is about adding new platforms, but that's not the only thing being done).

The whole point of them is that you want to spend as little time in as possible. Their purpose is to get people on and off trains. No-one says "I'm just off to the station for a bit".

I regularly use Swindon station and while it's not attractive, I really don't care. As long as the ceiling isn't falling on people, the toilets flush and people can buy a coffee, who cares? Hungerford Station doesn't even have those facilities. It's just a couple of platforms and people still use it.


Anonymous said...

I used to love the ambience of some of London's great railway termini. My local, was Liverpool St, long before it was modernised and to me it was a thing of great beauty that was quite awe inspiring, as a youngster. Sure, as a commuter I didn't hang about but frankly it was a bit of a high just passing through twice a day. Was never a trainspotter of course...but just loved trains and not steam either but bog standard locomotives. So perhaps I'm biased.

Curmudgeon said...

Given that people can spend a large chunk of their lives waiting around in stations, there’s a reasonable expectation that they should be more than just barely tolerable. Obviously there’s a need for more facilities at major stations where people change trains as opposed to wayside ones where they just get on and off.

However, even at small stations it’s reasonable to expect somewhere to sit undercover, and at larger ones clean (and preferably free) toilets fully stocked with soap, towels, bogroll etc, plus somewhere to get a drink and a snack.

Brian, follower of Deornoth said...

Did I read that correctly? £850,000,000 to modernise a railway station? Eight hundred and fifty million quid?

The Stigler said...


I like travelling by train. And Liverpool st was quite lovely. And Bristol Temple Meads, too. OK, the Victorians threw lots of money at stations. Thanks. Doesn't mean we should.

But we're rarely talking about station improvements adding much in the way of facilities, or where they do, of course you're going to get charged.

And wouldn't you prefer the millions to be spent on having more efficient trains, so you spend less time in the station.

Yes. I am honestly baffled by the cost of construction, especially when you meet the people who do the work and tell you what they're getting for a day rate.

Kj said...

I don't think it's a radical idea that nicer surroundings are better than ugly surroundings TS. That's worth something, not insane amounts, but a reasonable outlay.

Graeme said...

in far too many stations, there is nowhere to wait that is protected from the elements - and most people arrive at least 5 minutes before the train is due - the toilets are filthy, unwashed and no bogroll is available...but £850m seems a bit steep to provide a hut-like structure...and of course nothing will have been done to keep maintenance spend going, so the toilets will still be filthy and unprovided with bogroll.

Bayard said...

Brian, Graeme, as far as I can remember from the last time I was at Reading, what is being done is far more than just an modernisation: the track layout is being completely replanned. Much of the cost is probably over-engineering and H&S bollocks, but you have to remember that all this work is having to be carried out whilst keeping a very busy station running, which means lots of work at weekends and at night, when people not unnaturally expect to be paid more.

ThomasBHall said...

I'm staggered at the cost of the St Pancras redevelopment- but does that figure include the hotel and apartments or just the shed?
I used to live near Kings X as the work was being done- and on one occation blagged a tour round the whole site. I'd also add, that my wife and I have several times visited St Pancras as a destination to meet friends for lunch, or have a drink. It's the quickest station to get to from where I live, and easy to get to in London- it is also a really magnificent building, with a number of high quality eateries- the Eurostar is quiet and attractive, and the hordes of passengers are hidden out of site.