Keith, Graham and Iain

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Stockport station gating latest

by Iain Roberts on 30 September, 2015

Along with several other Stockport councillors and council officers I had a meeting with Virgin Trains staff about the new ticket gates across the underpass at Stockport station.

The gates have now been in place for over a month. Virgin’s aim is to both stop people travelling without tickets and future-proof the station for when we have oyster-style smart cards.

Some residents had contacted councillors with reports of being trapped in the gates, of ticket machines not working, rude staff and insufficient signage, and those complaints were all passed on to Virgin. While the complaints were a small proportion of all users, every one needs to be investigated and we want Virgin to make improvements to address the issues.

Overall, the introduction of gates has seen thousands more tickets sold each week in the station, suggesting that many people who might in the past have taken a chance and not bought a ticket are now paying for one.

There have been reports of some delays at the gates at busy periods and of valid tickets not always being accepted (so people having to get a member of staff to manually check). Virgin say they are working to improve these issues and, while there may be some queueing, it should never be more than about 30 seconds.

We also looked at safety. The new system has been fully audited for safety by the Fire Service as well as the train companies. In the event of a fire alarm, the gates will automatically open.

Of course, one of the big issues was people wanting to pass from one side to the other, and this was a key issue I worked on back in the summer. The system now in place – where anyone can pass through and be given a card at one end to hand back at the other – seems to be working reasonably well. It’s not perfect. Quite a lot of people pass through and Virgin are looking at how to give regulars a six-month pass to keep. There is also concern about abuse of the system. A small number of people are taking the passes and then travelling on a train without a ticket. We are of the firm view that this is a price worth paying and Virgin have committed to continuing with the pass system.

We have asked Virgin to look at making sure people can always easily buy tickets on the Edgeley side, at improving the signage to make it clear people can walk through for free, at getting a long-term pass for regulars and at the specific issues where people have had bad experiences. The new system has had some teething problems and we will continue to work with Virgin to raise issues and press for them to be resolved.

We will be having another meeting in early December to follow up.

   11 Comments

11 Responses

  1. Clare Forrest says:

    Thanks for this Iain.
    I think it’s important to recognise that the usual rules will apply here on the ratio of actual complaints to those who felt aggrieved but didn’t bother to complain. Which includes me and Andy on separate occasions. For me, I just felt that the staff were surly and unhelpful – hardly ‘welcoming’.
    It is pleasing to know that more revenue is being collected – it would be interesting to know the actual sum here and how the cost of the new barriers and additional staff compares.

  2. Peter Riocreux says:

    There is an ongoing issue at the moment where if you buy a ticket on the Edgely side and then have to get a train from platform 0, you cannot get out of the controlled area.

    Apparently there is a timeout of 10mins (the staff member thought) as it does not expect people to go in and out in close succession.

  3. Jac says:

    Thanks for your report. I too have had problems trying to leave the station on the Edgeley side, after alighting at platform zero. The barrier would not accept my ticket so I had to wait to wait for the assistant to open the gate manually. At this time there was only one assistant and a large crowd (dozens of people on either side) gathering on either side all needing assistance. The atmosphere became a little unpleasant as people became impatient and there was some pushing. When there are crowds gathering surely they should be allowed to just hold a gate open and let people through? It is very annoying when it’s busy that the gate will only open briefly to allow one person through.

  4. Michael Anthony Brathwaite says:

    Overall, the introduction of gates has seen thousands more tickets sold each week in the station, suggesting that many people who might in the past have taken a chance and not bought a ticket are now paying for one.
    Where is the proof of this statement and if it is true does it mean that there are thousands of dishonest rail travellers in Stockport?

    • Iain Roberts says:

      Michael – fare evasion is an issue everywhere in the country (and the world, as far as I know) and a minority of train travellers have always avoided buying a ticket if they can. The figure is normally 5-10% of travellers.

  5. Margaret Newall says:

    Iain you didn’t mention wether customers are allowed to accompany / meet passengers on the platform. Is this still possible?

    • Iain Roberts says:

      Hi Margaret,

      Yes, you can get a pass at the gate and go onto the platform (because of the gates, there are no longer staff at the bottom of the stairs to check tickets). If the gates are open, you can just go through.

  6. Garry says:

    I used the station last weekend to travel to Ipswich via london. I was a little early so stood for fifteen minutes in the booking Hall. What I saw was a perfectly friendly man assisting customers who had difficulties. Most of whom were trying to use the wrong ticket or wrong part of a two part ticket. Four people tried to use their seat reservation. One man had the return ticket not the outward journey. One issue was clear, some people just didn’t know how to use them. With the Virgin staff constantly repeating the information. Perhaps better signage is required. My experience though was fine. My ticket operated the barriers at Stockport, Euston Square, Liverpool Street and Ipswich. The return journey was just as smooth.

  7. Stuart Thompson says:

    I often travel from Stockport using my Senior bus pass and change at Piccadilly to rail, using my senior rail card to buy a ticket at the senior rate. Because the ticket machines at Piccadilly sometimes have long queues at peak times, I sometimes bought my ticket for the onward journey at Stockport in the days before the barrier system started. Now, If I enter the station from the Edgeley side, I ask the ticket staff on the barrier to sell me a ticket for my onward journey that is valid from Piccadilly or from another station such as Bramhall or Bolton if the chargeable part of my journey starts at these point. If the barrier is busy or has insufficient staff there at a peak time, my transaction can be disrupted while the staff member deals with passengers wanting to pass through the barrier.
    Perhaps our Councillor representatives could enquire whether it is possible to book a rail ticket for a journey from a starting point other than Stockport by using a Stockport-based ticket machine. It would be more convenient for the passengers and allow the barrier staff to concentrate on the passengers who already have tickets.

  8. Carolyn Minkes says:

    Just to say that the young man on the gate when I travelled could not have been more cheerful or helpful. I had to wait by the gate for some time and he was a real sweetie.

  9. John M says:

    I am a daily commuter from Stockport to Sheffield, and over the years I have witnessed a large amount of ticket fraud. Some methods are subtle but the gates are a significant help in combating this, so I am in favour of the them.

    However, every morning my season ticket lets me through the gate at the Edgeley side, but will not work at the second gate on my way to platform 0. I was told updated software would address the issue, but this is not the case. Therefore, I have complained directly to the station manager – Karen Grimshaw – that was 10 days ago but so far no reply. I am pleased that you have also put this issue to the Virgin staff. However, as I put in email to Karen , why was this problem not foreseen ??

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