Thursday, 24 March 2011

Bing Bong! Train Announcements

Earlier this month I blogged about access at Nairn railway station:

“At the Brighton of the North station there are two platforms but only a set of stairs to get across the tracks. It means you can arrive from Inverness at the dreaded Platform Two laden with buggy, shopping and wriggly toddler and face the prospect of somehow getting up the stairs and across the bridge without having a heart attack. Herding deaf cats while blindfolded on a ferry that was pitching and tossing would be easier.

“Instead your only option is to trundle across a pothole infested yard, walk down a road with no pavement outside the football pitch and council depot, cross a dangerous and busy junction with limited visibility and go uphill under the railway bridge. As Nairn is being eyed by developers it is clear we can expect the station to become busier. I have asked Scotrail and Transport Scotland what plans they have to improve things. Don’t hold your breath but I will keep you posted!”

Well, hats off to Transport Scotland. Their access chap replied swiftly and clearly to my questions.

I made some suggestions for how access could be improved in the short term and he’s promised to discuss with Scotrail. (Scotrail I should say never replied to my original queries.)

Longer term the Transport Scotland mannie tells me there is an investment programme for rail stations to make them ‘step free’ but Nairn isn’t on the list. I asked if level of use was the main driver for the programme. Apparently Nairn has 75,000 passengers through it each year whereas most of the stations being improved see more than a million users. But level of use turns out to be just one factor taken into account when deciding where to invest. Others include ease of installing a solution and the station’s proximity to useful facilities such as hospitals. (Town and County’s pretty handy wouldn’t you say?)

In short I think there’s a good case for doing something at Nairn and I’ll keep up the pressure on the authorities. If you don’t ask you don’t get!

Meantime I’m considering starting up a Samaritans-style helpline for users of the ‘Flexipass’ ten cheap tickets option following a recent harrowing incident which I gather is pretty common.

To explain to non-commuters: If you get the ’peak time’ train services (7.20 and 8.20am from Nairn and the 5.10pm from Inverness) the Flexipass offers a cheaper option (still expensive in my view!) but the deal involves having to write the day’s date on the ticket before handing it over for inspection.

I recently sat on the train going into Inverness and the call ’tickets please’ didn’t materialise until we were going under the A9 and passing the Mercury (I think it’s the Thistle these days) Hotel. So I rummage for my ticket and a pen only to realise I don’t have a pen. Could you write the date on for me, I plead.

“I shouldn’t. In fact I should take this ticket off you, tear it up in front of your face and sell you a full price one,” came the reply from the uniformed tyrant who had clearly forgotten to take her Berocca that morning.

My jaw dropped and I sat silently blinking from this verbal mugging as we pulled in to Inverness station.

The First Group website says: “We want to deliver the perfect journey to all of our customers.” Fourteen of the fifteen minutes of mine were lovely.

I am sorely tempted to get on the train tomorrow and buy a full price ticket, paying with 670 individual copper pennies produced from a bulky piece of luggage stowed in the overhead rack or possibly blocking an aisle or vestibule.

Do let me know if I sound like I’m going off the rails…

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