Report on FOHS Meeting of 21 March 2014

Northern Passes:

Northern passes had arrived and were distributed but because the Northern franchise extension agreement had not been finally concluded they would need to be renewed again at the end of July.

Website:

Smooth Lines, our website designer, had relocated. It was agreed that a report of each FOHS meeting would be posted on the website.

Station Improvements:

All welcomed the news that one new heater had been installed in the main waiting room and a further two new heaters in the platform waiting room although no bin had been installed. The problem of seagulls damaging the binbags was again aired. The plastic bins at Doncaster were referred to as a possible solution and Paul Henry was investigating this. The quality of the plastic bags was not considered adequate and the batch of bags in use appeared to be of a lower grade of plastic. Marie Addison said she would look into getting a better quality from their supplier.

In response to the problem of the leaks in the waiting room Marie reported that the contractor had been the previous day to check where the leaks were occurring and was returning to carry out work that very evening after the departure of the last train.

Regarding the two glass panels damaged with bullet holes, Marie indicated they were aware of the damage, it was in hand, but no timescale for completion was given.

Station Cleaning and Station Rota:

The rota was functioning well. It was noted that the left hand door of the cupboard still required a bolt to ensure it closed properly. The broken brush had been repaired.

Grand Central Ambassadors:

The Ambassadors duty timetable was working well whilst some of the difficulties and pressures faced over recent weeks with the football Cup weekend and on different occasions the replacement bus services which all required extra input and contribution from Ambassadors was acknowledged.

Reports and feedback received related to shortfalls in the way the bus services laid on by Northern operate and the effects of which, in turn, can create problems for Ambassadors who, by their very presence, are at the beck and call of Northern passengers. It was noted that Ambassadors do not object in any way to helping Northern passengers in these situations and indeed go out of their way to do so. Buses were often late from the North for passengers heading for Middlesbrough and on one occasion the train had left before the arrival of the bus incurring a two and a half hour wait for the passengers concerned. On another occasion it was only intervention by Ambassadors that enabled passengers to take the GC to Eaglescliffe to change and continue their journey.

Concern was expressed that there was no official handover between coach and train and no one taking responsibility and also that the coach drivers do not get off the coach resulting in Ambassadors rounding people up to ensure they don’t miss the connecting coach. The timekeeping of the buses needed to be monitored as there may be a problem in that the buses can’t keep to the schedules given.

A letter had been despatched to Northern in respect of these problems.

A new GC fare structure sheet had been prepared and would be emailed to all. Some fares had gone up but the carnet of tickets had remained the same.

Transport Champions Group:

There had not been a TCG meeting since the last meeting of FOHS so there was nothing to report other than confirmation in the Mail of some of the original plans discussed. The next meeting was 14 May – Topic: Cycling

Coastliners:

The most recent meeting of Coastliners was an open meeting which had taken place on February 27th and which had accommodated two distinguished visiting guest speakers from Northern Rail in the form of Rob Warnes, Planning and Programme Director and Simon Cox, Service Development and Planning Manager, both based in the North-West. Tribute was paid to Peter Walker whose range of contacts in the Railway firmament had made this possible. They had addressed the meeting in a most interesting manner imparting a wealth of information, giving insights into the decision making process and into the different criteria that impact on Timetabling.

In discussing the attempts to try to improve the Thornaby connection problems the various constraints affecting Northern and the changes forced upon them by the likes of Virgin West Coast, East Coast , TPE, GC, Nexus were explored and the fixed paths for Metrocentre trains on the East Coast, paths at Carlisle and even Glasgow were highlighted.

Rob and Simon also had said James Cook would be on stream by the summer, that a study into Peterlee Station was taking place and, if it went ahead, Network Rail would undertake minor infrastrusture changes on the Coastline which might involve some speeding up of trains. From May the Saturday train which presently runs from Newcastle via Darlington to Middlesbrough and whose purpose was to serve Chester-le-Street will be discontinued as TPE would cover that, the result being that the discontinued train would be rerouted down the coast.

It was announced that the next Coastliners meeting, the AGM was scheduled for Thursday, 27 March and that provisional arrangements had been made for May 15th at which Kathryn O’Brien, Head of Franchise Development at TPE would appear.

An email had sent to Paul Henry and Pete Myers regarding the question of introducing anytime fares on the coastline. No anytime fares exist at present between Middlesbrough and Newcastle Central/Airport but can be obtained from Redcar.

Any Other Business:

The dates of the next Model Railway shows were announced as 17/18 May in Hartlepool and 12/13 July in Middlesbrough and volunteers were requested to staff the event on a rota basis to give out information on Northern, GC, Stevenson Locomotive Society etc.

It was agreed that a poster should be put up in the station for Easter on behalf of the Friends wishing passengers a Happy Easter.

Next Meeting:

The next meeting was scheduled to take place at 9-13 Scarborough Street, Hartlepool, on Friday 23 May 2014 at 10.00 a.m.

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