Starlink participates in
national rail consultation
Thursday, 09 February 2012
Starlink response to 2014
Procuring rail passenger services
Q1 A single focus franchise is best for Scotland
to avoid a two-tier service.
Q2 comments: 10 years will encourage the
franchise holder to invest in service and provide
stability for passengers.
Q4 comments: Profits should depend upon increased
passenger numbers, increased services and new
stations, such as St Andrews.
Q5 comments: Open access should be encouraged, to
let third parties provide services which the main
franchise holder is unable or unwilling to
Q7 comments: Not too onerous to rule out smaller
Q8 comments: The existing SQUIRE system seems a
satisfactory tool, provided it is applied
reliability, performance and service quality
Q9 comments: The carrot is needed as well as the
stick; the definition of good performance should
include more passengers, more services and lower
Q10 comments: Performance regime should depend
upon the number of passengers carried and the
length of the journey.
Q11 comments: Listen to what the passengers are
telling you and act upon it.
This is perhaps also the place to raise the
matter of obsolete signalling affecting
performance. From a situation which had pertained
for many years, where all trains stopped at
Leuchars, it being the stop for St Andrews,
recently one or two have been running straight
through due to the constraints of the semaphore
signalling north of Ladybank. Immediately an
element of doubt is introduced; one can no longer
assure a potential rail passenger that all trains
stop at Leuchars, and this uncertainty acts as a
disincentive, particularly is the passenger could
use a car instead. Despite the
‘passenger-friendly’ nature of semaphore, which
gives advance warning of a train’s arrival, it is
time these systems were upgraded so that capacity
can be increased, and the missed stops at
Q12 comments: The definition of lateness being
defined as 10 minutes or more is not one which
would be recognised in most workplaces; after
all, Network Rail’s definition, as far as fines
are concerned, is much stricter.
NB: We do not accept the claim in 5.11 that
‘journey times on commuter services will be more
crucial than on tourist routes’; tourists may be
under equal or greater pressure to be somewhere
at a certain time, for example to catch a ferry,
an aeroplane or even another train.
Q13 comments: Yes, and it should apply to all
aspects of stations and service delivery but must
be applied in a sensible manner.
Q14 comments: Passenger Focus could be used, with
contacts advertised at stations as those of the
former RUCC used to be.
Q15 comments: Particularly given the level of
fares, it should not be assumed that passengers
will have to stand at all, although clearly there
will be occasions where this is unavoidable.
However it should be very much the exception
rather than the rule.
Q16 comments: There should be no reduction in
direct services. As is well-known, introducing a
change of trains loses a quarter of passengers,
and a change between modes of transport, such as
from train to bus, at least a half.
Even worse than having to change trains is having
to change stations, especially if encumbered with
holiday luggage, such as one encounters at
Glasgow. Despite the small bus service, which is
completely unsuitable for suitcase-bearing
passengers, one still has to get from the train
and down the length of one concourse to the
bus-stop, and then from the next bus-stop across
another sizeable concourse to the next train. A
Glasgow Crossrail should be seen as a priority.
Q17 comments: The basic specifications should be
kept for social reasons.
Q18 comments: The same as at present, or better.
Q19 comments: The contract should reward the
franchisee for additional passenger miles.
Q20 comments: To encourage the use of the
railway; more passengers will offset increased
Q21 comments: For decades the fare structure has
been a mess and worsening. It almost seemed that
the rail industry at all levels was hoping it
would somehow go away, so reluctant were they to
attempt to disentangle it. There are instances
where buying tickets from A-B and B-C is cheaper
than a ticket from A-C (for example, Aberdeen,
Stonehaven and Leuchars) and others where the
shorter route, going away from the busy Central
Belt costs more than the long way round via
Edinburgh (for example, Leuchars-Glasgow via
Dundee rather than Edinburgh). The historic
reasons which brought about these anomalies, such
as the use or otherwise of Winchburgh junction,
have long since ceased to have relevance and all
that such anomalies do is make those with the
option of driving instead more likely to take it.
There is no excuse; the fare structure should be
rationalised. This must not mean increasing
prices to remove the anomalies, which will lose
passengers, but rather decreasing them, which
will increase use and so compensate for the
theoretical loss of revenue. The concept of
‘reasonable routes’ should be reinstated; a
Leuchars-Stirling ticket, for example, should be
valid either via Dundee or Edinburgh, thus giving
maximum choice to the rail traveller, just as
they would have if driving.
On a more mundane level, a single fare should be
no more than 60% of a return; there are instances
where a single journey is almost the same as an
off-peak return, which again discourages travel
Price should mainly be based upon the distance of
the journey and, ideally, related to the cost of
a car journey of the same length.
Q22 comments: Increase use, and therefore
increase revenue. Raising fares always results in
a drop in use, especially as most people have an
alternative. Rationalising fares (see Q. 21,
above) must not mean increasing them.
Q23 comments: It is unlikely that a difference
between peak and off-peak fares makes as much
difference as one might at first suppose. People
travelling on business, not just going to work,
have to be in a certain place at a certain time
so do not have the flexibility. Even leisure
travellers might find themselves on a peak-hour
train, because the time they reach their
destination depends upon when they start; for
example, holidaymakers going to catch a
particular ferry or aircraft.
Q24 comments: New stations could depend upon
several factors, such as the catchment population
and the number of people travelling to and from
the location. A recent ATOC document suggested
that a settlement of 15000 would indicate that a
station should be provided, as would specific
attractions to a particular place, such as a
tourist destination or a university. It should be
noted that St Andrews is a prime candidate,
falling into all three categories, and being the
only Scottish university town without a railway,
as well as an economic generator. It should be
noted that the present criteria for re-opening
seem unduly pessimistic, and so should be
revisited, given that all new openings since
1995, again according to the ATOC report, both in
Scotland and in England have attracted many more
passengers than were predicted: for example,
Alloa, Prestwick Airport, Edinburgh Park,
Laurencekirk, Airdrie-Bathgate. The message is
clear; people like travelling by rail, despite
all the obstacles the industry throws in their
There is already a procedure to decide upon
station closures; we are pleased you are not
proposing to carry out any.
Q25 comments: Local authorities and other
organisations will be more aware of local
requirements than a head office in Edinburgh or
Q27 comments: By running trains when the local
community wants and where they want to go. In
that way, local people will feel that it is
‘their’ station and duly support it. A station
where most trains rush through with only one or
two stopping per day is unlikely to be looked
upon with affection by its community.
Q28 comments: We do not see the need for
categories such are suggested, if for no other
reason than some stations fall into more than
one, and it is not clear which would take
priority. It would be better to categorise
stations according to the number of passengers
that embark and alight and/or the number of
trains that stop.
All stations should have toilets; although trains
have them, sometimes a service is delayed
resulting in a longer than anticipated wait,
which can pose a particular problem if the
station is not in a town centre. Passengers with
valid tickets should be able to use these free;
access could be controlled via the magnetic
strip, as happens at ticket barriers. The
establishment of cafés, restaurants, bars and
shops should be encouraged, by reasonable not
extortionate rents, to utilise redundant spaces
at stations, thus providing more facilities for
passengers and the safer environment that goes
with the presence of more people.
Q29 comments: Of course they should continue to
go north of Edinburgh! We are amazed that this
question is even being asked, after the
successful campaign over a year ago to persuade
East Coast to continue running their services
through to Aberdeen and Inverness. It is not
clear upon which trains the people who claimed
that they are little-used north of Edinburgh were
travelling; the East Coast and Cross Country
trains are extremely popular with Leuchars
passengers, who are mostly travelling to and from
St Andrews of course. As mentioned earlier,
terminating cross-border services at Edinburgh
would cut passengers by at least a quarter, but
there would still be so many extra milling about
at Waverley to cause overcrowding. It is not
clear whether Scotrail would be able to run
services to compensate, or if there would simply
be a loss of services. If necessary the train
could be split, as happens for example at
Tyndrum, but passengers should not have to
physically move from one train to another.
East Coast’s proposal last year to terminate
services at Edinburgh was driven by the age of
the 125 diesel services which are currently used
on the King’s Cross-Aberdeen/Inverness routes. Of
course, if the line between Edinburgh and
Aberdeen were electrified, the problem would be
Q30 comments: No; see above. Extended rail
journey times, a crowded concourse at Waverley
and a loss of passengers cannot by any stretch of
the imagination be considered benefits, except by
bus companies, airlines and car manufacturers!
Q31 comments: As electric rolling-stock is
cheaper to lease than diesel, electrification of
the lines from Aberdeen to Edinburgh and Glasgow
would make sense.
– information, security and services
Q32 comments: Toilets (that work); heating (that
works, particularly on the Northern Line in
winter) and a view out of the (clean) window,
also adequate cycle provision and luggage space.
It should be remembered that not everybody is
tall enough to use the overhead racks; some
foreign rolling-stock has a luggage space under
the seats. NB – Scotland is the Home of Golf, yet
far too many coaches do not have spaces either
long or tall enough for golf-bags.
akin to Weekend 1st,
would make better use of seats.
Q33 comments: Wi-fi and power-points should be
included as a matter of course. If mobile phone
reception is to be included, please remember the
passengers who really do not want to hear other
people’s trivia shouted into a handset, and
provide a quiet coach.
Q34 comments: The offer of off-peak 1
Q35 comments: Most people can and do drink
alcohol without causing a problem. It is one of
the attractions of rail travel that one can enjoy
a relaxing glass of wine while admiring the
scenery. It would therefore be a great pity if it
were to be banned. The analogy with coaches is
not exact, because on trains the driver is
physically separated from the passengers. Banning
the consumption of alcohol would not solve the
problem of disruptive passengers who board the
train already intoxicated. If train staff cannot
deal with a situation, the British Transport
Police should be involved. Similarly, if there be
trains frequently used by intoxicated, disruptive
passengers, the BTP should establish a visible
and regular presence.
A ban in Scotland would introduce anomalies for
cross-border trains, including the sleepers and
remaining dining-services, whereby people would
have to ‘drink up’ in the vicinity of Berwick or
Carlisle. There is also the lucrative
excursion/charter train market, where alcohol is
part of the experience, and the Starlink campaign
would certainly envisage such trains coming to St
There might be a case for only allowing the
consumption of alcohol purchased on the train,
though that would probably mean more provision
being required. However, any bans are likely to
be flouted, with alcohol being added to soft
drinks beforehand, and surreptitious recourse to
the hip-flask. It would be a sad day indeed if
one could not enjoy Scotland’s national drink on
a Scotrail train.
Q36 comments: The simple act of highlighting the
‘home’ station on the station timetables with a
coloured pen would make these very much easier to
read. Unfortunately, this helpful practice has
fallen foul of the SQUIRE system. As we said,
commonsense is required in its application.
The display screens tend to change too
frequently. While one is still reading the train
information, all too often a warning about
unattended baggage flashes up! The time a screen
is displayed should be proportionate to the time
it takes to read the information displayed.
There is a problem with the National Rail website
display for Leuchars. As you know, people can
take a bus from St Andrews to Leuchars to catch a
train, and vice-versa, and the bus times are also
displayed on the website. Unfortunately the
screen that shows train departures from Leuchars,
also show bus departures from Leuchars to St
Andrews, and vice-versa, whereas a passenger
wanting to travel from St Andrews for a train
leaving Leuchars needs to see the bus times
arriving at Leuchars along with the trains
departing from Leuchars. Upon reporting this, we
were told nothing could be done, which we do not
believe this. It would greatly help potential
passengers to only have to check one screen
rather than two. The present set-up is only
convenient either to someone wanting to travel by
bus to meet a train arriving, or someone sitting
at Leuchars station who is undecided whether to
catch a train or just to catch a bus to St
Andrews; there cannot be very many in either
category, compared with those who are changing
between bus and train.
Q37 comments: Yes, sleeper services should still
be specified. They reduce road and air journeys
and as such are environmentally-friendly.
Q38 comments: It should be included with the main
franchise, and information about it made easier
to find than at present.
Q39 comments: If you want to know the appeal, why
not ask the users? Clearly, travelling while
asleep makes good use of otherwise unproductive
time, rather than wasting the best part of a day
in a car. Also, passengers arrive on central
London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Fort
William or Inverness at a civilised time.
Changing times, for example so that the train
arrived in London at 05.00, would discourage use.
Again, ask the users as to the value. You will
recall the vociferous campaign in the 1990s when
it was proposed to stop the Inverness sleeper.
These services are particularly valuable to the
tourist industry, and especially to places such
as Fort William which do not have many rail
services. Oban could be a useful destination,
especially if it connected with an early ferry
for the islands, but it should be an additional
rather than an alternative service; perhaps you
could split the Fort William sleeper at Tyndrum.
Perhaps this is also the time to look again at
overnight Motorail, which also has environmental
Q40 comments: A KPI should be the modal shift
from the more polluting road and air services
achieved. Another should be the number of
bicycles carried, as each bicycle potentially
indicates a car journey saved.