Whilst all the sitting and hopeful candidates were busy at Ponds Forge watching the count another very important meeting was taking place in Sheffield. Here is a brief report of what went on. If you are concerned about the issue of gating the station please put June 3rd in your diary and come along to the Area Panel meeting at Victoria Methodist Church, Stafford Road, 6.30pm where it will be discussed, and you will have an opportunity to question a representative of East Midlands trains.
Report of a meeting at Sheffield Station
about access through the station: Held at 11.00 am 2 May 2008
The meeting was called by Jake Kelly, Customer Services Director of East Midlands Trains (EMT). Jake appears to have responsibility for implementing the plan to make Sheffield a “gated” station.
About 20 people were present, including:
1. Richard Caborn, MP
2. Representatives of a range of Disability Access groups
3. Chair of Transport of All
4. Chair of Friends of Sheaf Valley Park
5. Chair of Sheffield Civic Trust
6. Secretary and Convenor of Victoria Environment Group
7. Member of the petition group
8. Rep of British Transport Police responsible for the policing of the station
9. Sheffield City Council Officers responsible for Highways, Planning and Regeneration
10. Several station employees with a range of responsibilities
Jake Kelly explained the rationale for considering restricting access. It is to reduce fare dodging but also to reduce crime within the station and on trains.
MP Richard Caborn pointed out that the huge financial investments involved in Park Hill and the e-campus, are reliant on good access through the station. He requires the Director to provide detailed figures on how much would be saved in fare dodging if the station were closed. When available, a cost benefit analysis would need to be carried out and considered in the wider context of
·the huge sums already committed and
·the possibility of future income to be generated by communities which could be cut out.
The MP also required the police representative to give figures on crimes and arrests over the last 6months, 12 months, 18 months and two years, so that a similar analysis could be carried out. This was agreed.
Towards the end of the meeting another train employee said that the Dept for Transport included a requirement to gate 5 stations on their network, was a condition of awarding the franchise to East Midlands Trains. Other stations such as Chesterfield could be considered. Jake confirmed that the reason that Sheffield is being considered at the moment, is that it is the station with the highest income.
It is clear that the main motivation for this proposal is financial and currently EMT does not perceive that the wider issues of the city and the communities around the station are it’s concern.
A Design Consultancy has been commissioned to draw up plans for gating the station.
The needs of train users with disabilities will be one of the design criteria but there is no commitment to include the needs of people “in transit” through the station, rather than catching trains. The impression is that EMT plans to divert “none-travelling “ public via other bridges and routes. A couple of routes suggested were a “goods” bridge which is used by station staff and could be upgraded for use by the public, or the old south bridge. The view of the meeting was that the latter is an unacceptable alternative – it has no lifts and it lands on a back street. This will merely displace any of the alleged theft, begging and mugging that the British Transport Police spokesperson was concerned about. There was some discussion about allowing none travelling people with disabilities to have access through the station, but the representatives felt that separate arrangements for them would be divisive.
The Director anticipates that any gating would take place around May 2009.
Jake plans some consultation and said that the views of today’s meeting would be passed through to the consultants.
· EMT will be in no doubt that there is strong and vocal opposition to gating the station and that it is a coalition of national politicians, local councillors and officers, representative disability groups, city wide groups concerned with access and local residents.
· As Director of Customer Services Jake Kelly is looking for a solution to “mitigate the effects of the gates in the interim” period before a public bridge makes the connection across the valley – however there is no current , proposal for a bridge, with identified funding .
· A copy of the brief given to the design consultants
· Opportunities to meet the consultants at a convenient place and time, before they start serious work on the plans.
· a further consultation meeting at a convenient date and time. (Mid morning on a week day excluded many.)
· to see any plans as they emerge
· genuine consultation, which is structured rather than ad hoc and as part of this Jake Kelly was informed that the station issue will be a key item on the next Area Panel meeting at 6.30 pm on Tuesday 3rd June…( venue to be confirmed) After the meeting he confirmed that although he personally cannot be there a senior member of EMT will attend the Area Panel.
Jake Kelly appeared to agree on further consultation and was prepared to look at ways of enabling us to meet the designers when they come to look at the station.
This report was compiled from notes made at the meeting by
Doug Bell, Terry Gallagher, Simon Gedye and Geraldine Roberts
5th May 2008