The Friends of Hartlepool Station ( FOHS) established in 2008, have adopted Hartlepool Railway Station under Northern’s Level 2 Station Adoption Policy.This is a scheme which was originally created to improve lines of communication between the train operator and station users and which over time has gradually expanded the role of volunteers such as ourselves. Although our group has undergone some changes of personnel over the years it has largely retained an essentially solid core of regular members who number 12 at the present moment and within whose ranks are reflected an ideal range of ages, diverse backgrounds and different viewpoints.
We see the station as an integral part of the community and we want the station to be a more inviting, presentable and first class departure and arrival point for passengers that creates a lasting, positive impression of our town and engenders in local rail users a degree of pride in the facilities they enjoy when travelling.
How do we achieve this?
We work closely with Northern Rail, as an extra pair of eyes and ears at the station, taking part in station health checks and flagging up problems as they occur and liaising with Northern Rail for the completion of any necessary repairs or the resolution of problems. Representatives of Northern Rail periodically attend our meetings, held every two months, to offer help and input and to keep abreast of the Group’s activities. Our meetings agenda usually includes an item on station improvements.
What do we actually do?
In our role as volunteers we undertake regular station cleaning duties on a rota basis each week on a Sunday, a day when the station is unmanned and regular cleaners absent. We sweep up, do litter picking, maintain the cleanliness of the station and look after the general tidiness of the platform areas. We remove and replace litter bin bags, dispose of litter, check timetables and posters, and identify graffiti or vandalism. In addition we also devote time to weeding, removing vegetation, etc. as and when necessary.
Any problems or issues that come to light and need addressing are reported to Northern for action.
There is a natural overlap with other rail bodies and a number of our members are active in Coastliners, a group that campaigns for better North-East Rail services and also with Grand Central Rail which has engaged many of the Friends group as Ambassadors to meet and greet passengers travelling on their services on Sundays when the station is unmanned. This, in turn, has resulted in an unexpected and very welcome, enhanced service on Sundays for Northern passengers who enjoy the help and assistance that Ambassadors are happy to offer them in addition to undertaking their Grand Central duties (see more on Ambassadors link). Grand Central have taken steps to name a train ‘Hart of the North’ which it was considered reflected the warmth of the people of the town.
Hartlepool station, of course, has undergone major improvement work as part of the new multi-million pound Hartlepool Transport Interchange in preparation for the arrival of the Tall Ships Event in 2010. It now encompasses new, comfortable, heated wating-roooms, a new ticket-office, the RatRace pub (which was the original ticket-office), cafe, cycle racks, ticket machine, toilet, CIS screens and can be considered a much more modern, user-friendly and inviting place whose orderly appearance we strive to maintain.
Following the expansion of the Station Adoption scheme members of the Friends have attended meetings organised by Northern in conjunction with other Adopters groups in the North-East as a platform for the exchange of ideas and the sharing of good practice.
As an organisation the FoHS also regularly interact with the Council at Transport Champions Group meetings in promoting improvement in the integration of services between different transport modes and in addition, representatives of our group attend various rail conferences, focus groups and franchise meetings at a range of venues across the North-East to remain fully informed of current developments within the rail network.
Our efforts in the station have not gone unrewarded as in the past we have been fortunate enough to receive an award from Hartlepool Civic Society in recognition of our contribution to the environmental improvement to Hartlepool Station.
New members are always welcome and afforded every opportunity to have some input on rail matters and policy making.