ONE OF The Whistler editors spent 20 years commuting up to London from Brighton station, enjoying jumping out (incredibly dangerously) of ‘slam door’ trains just as they came to a stop at the platform in Victoria; dodging the delights and gay abandon of the die-hard smoking carriages; running from platform to platform as Jacques Tati-esque incomprehensible announcements of delays and changes to trains were piped through loud, distorted speakers. In 2012, we published a series of satirical articles about how to survive the daily commute by David Cuff, called ‘Train Dead’. The clue was in the title. Just when long suffering passengers thought things could only get better, in fact they got worse and Govia Thameslink Railway’s (GTR) service deteriorated steadily, even before the 2018 timetable changes, putting their customers through massive miseries.
Following the disruption linked to timetable changes in May 2018, the Secretary of State announced that GTR would contribute £15 million towards a Passenger Benefit Fund which should provide tangible benefits for passengers at stations across their network. By the time this issue of The Whistler is distributed, the 3-month consultation programme with passenger groups (such as Sussex Community Rail Partnership line steering groups or Rail User Groups), individual passengers on the ‘Passenger Panel’, councils and other stakeholders, to decide what benefits the Fund will deliver will have come to an end. However, it’s not too late to have your say on how you think the money could be spent as GTR will review the submitted ideas and produce a list of schemes that passengers want to take forward. In August this list will be discussed with passenger groups and stakeholders before producing a final list for submission and approval by the Dept of Transport in September. You can still join the Passenger Panel by registering on the GTR website: passengerpanel.gtrailway.com/account/login/
GTR has come up with a list of possible schemes that would benefit passengers at their stations in addition to the work it has planned to deliver in 2019/20. They include solar panels; a ‘living plant wall’/bee garden or other environmental options; improvements to existing station toilets; additional customer seating and waiting shelters; increasing cycle security measures at stations; additional customer information screens. Of the £15 million fund, a total of £380k has been allocated to stations in the Brighton & Hove area, including £80k for Brighton Station, £30k for London Road and £80k for Preston Park. Additional customer seats have an estimated cost of £1k per seat including installation; customer information screens cost between £20-£25k; and toilet refurbishments come in at £20-£50k each.
I wonder how much running the trains on time would cost?