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