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Posted on Tuesday 20th October 2009

Rasc Objection

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Here is the objection to the barriers sent on behalf of Residents against station closure. Although the deadline has now been reached you can still send your own objection. We still await the date of the Planning Board, when we want as many people as possible to come and demonstrate outside and then attend the meeting. There have been some great objections, and if you’ve got several days to spare you can read them all on the Council website- there are well over 1000. Noteable ones are from SYPTE, Sheffield College, Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind, Sheffield Pensioners Action Group, Civic Trust, Howells Solicitors, Equal Rights, Manor and Castle Development Trust, Friends of Sheaf Valley Park, Victoria Methodist Church, all the Sheffield MP’s and leaders of political parties on the Council. With this sort of opposition I don’t see how the application can be passed. Bring on the Planning Board!

Residents Against Station Closure (RASC)/ Objection to Application 09/02887/LBC .
East Midlands Trains Application to erect barriers and associated equipment at Sheffield Station 18.10.09.

Introduction
Residents Against Station Closure (RASC), is a Sheffield residents and citizens campaign with wide representation and involvement of individuals and organisations across our city.
It was set up in May 2008 to fight East Midlands Trains plan to close the footbridge by installing barriers at the front and rear of Sheffield station.
Since then there has been a popular and unanimous objection to the loss of access and more than 4000 people have signed petitions voicing their opposition.
We emphasise that we are in favour of people paying for travelling on the railways and are against fare evasion. But we argue in the case of Sheffield there are more appropriate ways of achieving this objective.
One standard solution does not fit all situations, especially when in our case barriers would be at either end of a bridge that is not only used by rail passengers but by large numbers of the general public , moving between the city centre, the Super Tram and the communities around the station.

Our grounds for objection are:
1“Improvements”
· East Midlands Trains argue in their application that, 3.0 “The main thrust behind the project is the T.O.C.s desire to improve the existing booking hall and ticketing facilities”. They also say, “The works…… have been design(ed) to …..reflect the historic character of the existing building”.
· We would argue that far from improving the booking hall and the character of the building, their proposals would have a significant negative impact by introducing barriers, screens, video and other materials that would detract from the fabric and nature of the building.
· Their proposals would also have a serious adverse impact on space and circulation within the building, especially the main concourse area. These affects would detract from the everyday use and appreciation of the building by large numbers of people. This is particularly important given that the sympathetic reshaping at Sheffield by The City Council, Network rail and SYPTE, has been on the basis of it being an open station, in the spirit of many major station hubs in Europe.

2.An inaccurate and misleading application
· The application is factually incorrect and misleading. Their description of the “Existing Situation” covered under section 2 of their application stops at 1956. It therefore disregards the major environmental improvements which were implemented at massive public expense and with the full cooperation of Midland Mainline, the previous operators at the station. (See Note 1)
· In section 3.0 in their application, they state’ “E.M.T. also have an obligation to install ATGs, at Sheffield Station under their franchise agreement” This is not the case. The Franchise document allows them the option to meet their obligation to revenue protection at Derby, St Pancras and Sheffield stations, if they
a) Operate staffed ticket barriers at those locations during the Peak, or
b) provide reasonable additional revenue protection measures on trains serving those stations *(note 2)
They were asked by the Working Group in November 2008, given the hugely detrimental affect of their proposal on the City, to assess alternative approaches to revenue protection. They refused to do so.

· Also in section 3 – page 7, Pedestrian Access, they state, “ Lift access is available via a subway further down the platforms” No such subway exists at Sheffield Station.
· Fig. 4 page 4 and Fig.5 page 5 both say they are, “View taken from stairwell to platforms”. They are not. They are views from the stair well to the main concourse.
We believe much of this application has been created by individuals who have had little or no contact with Sheffield. It lacks any sense of ‘local knowledge”. The resulting scheme is insensitive to Sheffield’s station and unique situation, and consequently lacks credibility.
In our view such errors underline the lack of seriousness with which this application has been made, such that it calls into question their whole case and if for no other reason, justifies rejection of their application on the basis of it being incorrect.

3. “Consultation”
East Midlands Trains claim to have consulted a range of groups and organisations about their intentions and plans.
The Oxford Dictionary definition of Consultation is “seek information or advice from someone, seek permission or approval”
All groups listed in the application as “consultees”, with the exception of Supertram, which is a sister company to EMT, as it is part of STAGECOACH group, have rejected the proposal.
· Sheffield City Council has had 3 unanimous votes in Full Council opposing the plan
· SYPTE, Transport 4 All, and the Access Liaison Group have all lodged objections on the website
· The Chief Executive of Passenger Focus, the national consultative body said in Rail Pro magazine January 2009. “Clearly it is not going to work in Sheffield and they should just drop it, get it out of the franchise. It was daft”
· Passenger Focus also wrote to EMT in December 2008 commenting….
“ In the specific case of Sheffield, we remain concerned that the installation of
ticket gates on the overbridge will impede the flow of passengers between the
tram stop and the bus interchange and City Centre.” Paul Fullwood Passenger
Link Manager

· RASC has repeatedly rejected the EMT plan and when the Customer Services Director of EMT attended an Area Panel meeting on 3rd June 2008 he was faced with 100 angry residents, the minutes confirm he was left in no doubt that residents do not want the footbridge to close but none the less, resident groups are still quoted as consultees.
In our view EMT did not enter into consultation with Sheffield in any listening or constructive spirit. Their view appears to be that consultation consists of telling people what you plan to do and ignoring their objections.

4. “Justification”
East Midlands Trains have sought to justify their application on the grounds of
Revenue protection, safety and security. In so doing they have accepted that their proposed changes are major ones. However we would argue that in none of these areas have they substantiated their case.
· Revenue Protection
E.M.T. argue that the erection of barriers and associated equipment reduce fare evasion and increase their income. Nowhere in their application do they provide evidence to justify their case. Over the last 12 months R.A.S.C. has asked E.M.T. to provide this evidence. They have failed to do so and have turned down our reasonable requests for the facts, on the basis that they didn’t have the capacity to respond.
Elsewhere EMT has claimed an up to 10% increase in revenue where barriers are installed. But documented research has not been presented. Railway industry experts in a variety of articles / papers, ( for example see – “An Open and Shut Case” – Richard Mallins in the Rail Professional May 2008) have disputed such claims. They draw a distinction between Greater London rail operations and the rest of the country. They argue that Train Operating Companies have no way of knowing what the real difference over time maybe and whilst there maybe some increase in the short term this would not be the case over the long term.
From their own statements E.M.T. do not consider revenue loss is a problem on their Sheffield-London route, where on board inspection is effective. They have said their problem is on the Liverpool to Norwich route where inspectors were having difficulty checking tickets due to crowded conditions. There has been recent confirmation that additional rolling stock has been approved for this route which will address this issue

Such is the ineffectiveness of barriers that elsewhere Virgin who operate the West Coast line have removed barriers from stations such as Coventry.
· Safety.
Analysis of British Transport Police data indicates, Sheffield station is both safe and secure, with low instances of crime and trouble. A recent book by Anna Minton, “Ground Control”, argues that far from increasing safety and security such measures as those proposed by EMT lead to greater public anxiety, not less. It is the open nature of Sheffield station that makes it safer and more secure, with platform access only being prevented during the night when there are no trains.
Many objectors have confirmed that the open nature of the station and the fact that it is busy, contribute to feelings of personal safety at the station.
From their application EMT are more concerned about their own security than about safety of travellers. In section 1.0, Introduction, the only reference to safety is in the context of enabling the “ATG’s to operate safely”. They are creating a problem, the operation of barriers, which they then have to deal with by also installing, “localised CCTV and lighting in these areas.” This is emphasised at 3.0 on P.6. Here they say they wish to “install new CCTV cameras to provide safer coverage of passengers”, not – for passengers.
Where the management of special events is concerned, “EMT can open the gates to allow passengers to disperse.” Thus they recognise that barriers do not make things safer for the public but worse, otherwise they wouldn’t need to open them to deal with such movements. Therefore the present situation is by definition safer.

If barriers were to be installed then there is a further situation in which safety would be worse. If a fare avoiding traveller left a train at Sheffield then short of vaulting the barriers they would have to ‘escape’ at either end of the platforms. This would take them onto the tracks and to one or other of the tunnels, creating a potentially dangerous situation for them as well as other train users.
In their Conclusion they assert that “new automatic ticket gates will improve the safety of passengers”. This would not be the case.
· Security
As with safety, security is not an issue at Sheffield station. Vandalism and anti social behaviour are clearly a problem on the poorly lit public right of way footbridge, at the south end of Sheffield station, which many more people would be forced to use if barriers were erected at either end of the main bridge.
But the main station, platforms, concourse and public spaces are a vindication of the regeneration work. The environment is open, non threatening and without graffiti. And this is complemented by the new open spaces immediately in front of the main façade, with both the inner and outer stations benefiting from a background police presence. This also includes the entrance space between the tram stop and the station. The EMT application, P.6, describes this as an “otherwise isolated area”. Yet The S.Y.P.T.E. pedestrian survey found over 1800 people a day using the bridge as a link between the city centre, Park Hill, Sheffield College, the tram stop and a range of schools, and businesses in the area. Nowhere in their application does EMT provide evidence of pedestrian or passenger movement in the station. It is the easy movement of such a volume that underwrites both security and safety, not barriers, CCTV and videos.
Passenger Focus carry out quarterly reviews collecting passengers’ views on a wide range of travel related issues. On the issues of Safety Security and overall satisfaction with the station, the responses collected in Sheffield have consistently out- performed public responses for similar Stations. **( Note 3)
* Disability
In addition to the negative impact on the building itself, the measures proposed by EMT would also make conditions for disabled people worse. The creation of screens and barriers in the main concourse area would reduce the circulation space for people in wheel chairs or otherwise physically disabled, especially the passageway near the lift. The design would also generate congestion where the route from the wide gates crosses that from the left hand gates to the bottom of the stairs, potentially generating safety risks.
This will also be the case at the rear entrance to the station where circulation space will be reduced. Here, EMT propose to “install one video help point to improve the communication between staff and customers”. Video will not improve the situation for disabled people where clearly a lower staffing level is intended. It will leave them more vulnerable.
EMT claim on p.7 that, “Anyone with a disability will be able to apply for a pass if they wish to do so but we will not deny access to anyone who is clearly vulnerable.” On the basis of peoples direct experience of ‘human barriers’ in Sheffield and of machine barriers elsewhere we would dispute both the capacity of barriers to effectively and speedily accommodate disabled people and the ability and sensitivity of EMT barrier staff to recognise disabled and vulnerable people outside the self evident cases of people in wheel chairs.
Barriers will create serious disadvantages for wheelchair users but it will probably create even greater problems for those with hearing, sight /speech impairments, learning disabilities, dyslexia, autism and mental health difficulties. Nowhere in the application are these elements of disability or the problems of multiple disability mentioned.

5. Transfer of a Public Facility to Private control

Our final objection is in many ways the one most deeply felt by many of the individuals and groups, which oppose this application, which would result in the closure of the footbridge, The lifts, footbridge and other improvements were constructed with a great deal of public money after great thought and detailed planning, to be a key transport interchange and thus to serve the needs of a wide range of users. **(Note 1)
The idea, embodied in this application is that the narrow un quantified and unsubstantiated commercial interests of a single business, should be considered more important than the clearly demonstrated benefits enjoyed by the whole City of Sheffield.

In conclusion.
We strongly urge the Board to reject this application because:
The documentation has many inaccuracies and does not reflect the actual situation at the station.
Far from introducing improvements it involves a serious degradation of the facilities we currently enjoy.
The proposals would have a significant negative impact both on the listed building itself but also on public space and circulation, equally important elements of the building.
The proposed changes allied with the demonstrated culture of EMT would make things worse for disabled people.
The “consultation” has been badly carried out and the huge level of opposition has been ignored
The justifications referred in terms of revenue protection, security and safety are either not evidenced or factually wrong.
The station footbridge is a highly valued and well used public resource which should not be sacrificed to a narrow commercial interest.

Keith Hayman (Chair) on behalf of Residents Against Station Closure (RASC)
and the RASC Committee. – Geraldine Roberts (Vice Chair), Graham Wroe(Press and Media Officer), Douglas Bell (Secretary), Vivien Ratcliffe and Roz Glencoe (Events Organisers) and Jeanne Belmont(Treasurer)

Note 1
See attached- Data on funding of major improvements at Sheffield station- Sheffield City Council Presentation to Joint City/EMT Working Group 12 September 2008
Note 2
See East Midlands Franchise Agreement, dated 21 June 2007 Section 11.8
Note 3
Passenger Focus Survey Quarterly Data 2003-2008

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