Report on the FoHS Meeting of Friday 21 November 2014

Station improvements:

Concern was expressed that the small waiting room on the right was devoid of heating on what are now cold days.

Photographs of hard clear plastic bins being utilised in York were circulated as were pictures, similar in nature, illustrating clear plastic bins with three separate compartments in use at Bristol Temple Meads station. The question was posed… why could these not be introduced by Northern if successfully implemented elsewhere?

These photographs of the bins in use would be passed to Paul Henry for further investigation on his part.

CIS problems at York where the CIS showed 5A as the platform for the GC train but on arrival it was actually 5B were leaving passengers to scramble in haste, a scenario particularly difficult for disabled passengers.

The edging markings on the station platform constituted a potential hazard in that they were badly faded, deteriorated, cracked and are covered in moss at various points and required renewal in order, it was felt to adequately meet Health and Safety standards. It may be the responsibility of Northern rail or an infrastructure problem that fell within the remit of Network Rail. As Network Rail did the original weeding on the far platform maybe it was their problem.

The ongoing issue of the Poster board had come to nothing as yet. It was considered that the empty side of the Poster board, if utilised, lent itself to being a focal point for train alteration information, being situated, as it was, directly in passengers line of vision on entry to the station. This could, in turn, free up the notice boards in the corner for possible use By FOHS or Coastliners.

Station Cleaning and Cleaning Rota:

The new rota for the full year of 2015 incorporating recent changes of personnel was shortly to be issued. Swaps and withdrawals were being undertaken which would be reflected in the new rota issue.

Grand Central Ambassadors

It was observed that there seemed to be, of late, an increase in the number of Non- English speakers using the trains.

It was agreed that the next meeting of FOHS would take place on Thursday29 January ( to be followed directly by the G.C. Ambassadors meeting) in order that a New Year lunchtime meal from 1.00p.m. – 2.30 p.m. at the Flagship restaurant could be enjoyed by all involved, the change from a Friday meeting being introduced on this occasion to accommodate the availability of Celia Knot.

Meet The Manager:

Two events were staged at Middlesbrough and Thornaby on consecutive weeks on October 14 and 21with representatives of both TPE and Northern in attendance on a joint basis. Various stalls advertising different organisations were set out and it was attended by some interesting personnel including Judith Penman, the Area on Board Services Manager for TPE and also Steve Fletcher, Head of all Buildings on Network Rail who oversaw the resurrection of King’s Cross station. Whilst the Middlesbrough event was limited in terms of passenger participation, with the stalls being away from passenger flow, it did give an opportunity for a lot of networking to take place.

The Thornaby event resulted in less networking but a little more passenger involvement on this occasion with the displays much better and more attractive than the previous Hartlepool events.

It had been suggested that the event might be held at 7.00 a.m. in the morning to collar people on their way to work and that free coffee should be offered as an incentive to the public. An alternative to this would be to conduct it on the actual trains.

Cold unwelcome platforms in the winter should be avoided and it would be wiser to host the events in the summer in a warmer more comfortable temperature.


It was revealed that following our last meeting at which the welcome news of funding success was shared unfortunately news had been received from Peter Gowland that website training was not acceptable within the terms of the Grant. It had been necessary therefore to revamp the bid in a slightly different way mostly with Peter’s expert knowledge. The application was once again approved and the money had been passed to HVDA. Smooth Lines could offer training in both Joomla and WordPress .

Two additional members of the Friends indicated a willingness to be involved and agreed to go on the course It was also agreed that a more useful training programme would be to devote a half-day. The purchase of a printer was approved.

Campaign for Better Transport:

A report was given by two of the Friends who had attended a very good, well-organised meeting in York and had been addressed by a variety of people including reps of the DfT, Passenger Focus, Franchise director for TPE and Managing Directors of Northern Rail amongst others. The RMT were picketing outside and contrasting their views with those of the Dft. Rail North were represented by their Chief Executive and the only people missing were Treasury officials who would ultimately have the final word. The DfT thinking was given in respect of more trains, better trains, better timetables but franchise questions were off limits. The RMT considered the scheme to be a way of downsizing everything.

It also appeared that there was a growing, general acceptance that new diesel trains would be necessary. Rail North indicated that there was an acceptance that this couldn’t be covered simply by cascading.

A TPE representative said he was looking to a revolution in ticketing to avoid the situation of queues of passengers all trying to input eight digit numbers into machines.

DfT had received 20,000 responses to their consultation and their policy was to devolve decisions to regions as represented by such as Rail North for example.

Issues of growth, overcrowding, quality of service and rolling stock were all touched upon.

It was confirmed that Northern are spending £2M on CIS systems in 100 stations as part of the Direct Award but Seaton Carew was not included.

TPE were keen on bigger trains, electrification and speeding up the service.

Claire Perry, the Minister had been unable to attend and was replaced by a high ranking Civil Servant who was impressive. She had dwelt on the developments taking place in the North West / The Northern Hub and electrification East to West across the Pennines.

Alex Hynes, Managing Director of Northern had spoken of the Manchester to Liverpool electrification which would release diesels for the Bolton and Burnley areas. There was no mention of anything North or East of Leeds, North Yorkshire, Tyne Valley or Morpeth.

The Chair of the meeting had indicated that it was imperative to campaign to get more northern politicians involved. They weren’t presently speaking with one voice, they weren’t sufficiently involved or vocal. No council officers or councillors or representatives from local authorities were observed at the meeting or any professionals there. Joe Willis from The Northern Echo was present.

The forthcoming TCG meeting of 14 January on rail matters was announced.

It was felt that the Teeside voice was not as prominent as Yorkshire and as a result we suffered to an extent in comparison. Instead of having one voice for the North-East, both Teesside and Tyneside were characterized by disparate voices.

Little had been said about electrification Selby-Hull or Northallerton- Middlesbrough but it was understood to be on Network Rail’s things to be considered and for the DfT to consider whether to fund it or not.

In anticipating the TCG meeting it was suggested we could talk about the Transport |Interchange that isn’t, about the message coming out of the meeting attended regarding getting politicians involved more, a bigger voice and profile from Hartlepool Borough Council, better trains, electrification. Rail North is an organisation of local authorities but Hartlepool seems to have taken a back seat on this.

Alistair Smith, one of our senior Hartlepool Council officials was our representative on Rail North but we are a small authority in comparison to others and as a result our voice may not carry a great deal of weight.

Attention was drawn to the need for improvements in Sunday services which are inadequate with evening trains and later trains required.

It was generally accepted that the way people lead their lives on Sundays is vastly different now and the services that are provided need to be augmented to reflect this change in behaviour.

It was confirmed that, whilst not a rail matter, increased Sunday services were being introduced on the local bus timetables as well as some evening services. There would be increased running time for the 36 but it would be truncated however and will terminate at Middlesbrough Bus Station with a connecting No. 10 to James Cook.

The two hour gap on a Sunday to Newcastle was considered impractical

( more so for anyone missing the train and being subjected to a two hour wait ) and the increase in passengers shopping in Newcastle/Metro Centre needed to be catered for with extra trains.

Transport Champions Group:

The pending TCG meeting, already referred to earlier, which was scheduled for 14 January at which the topic had been changed from Car Parking to Public Transport with the focus on Rail and Bus. It was hoped that this particular topic would boost a flagging attendance.

There was concern that we get our message across about the railways. The Friends would have three members present each representing in turn FOHS, Coastliners and GC. But it was a pity more organisations weren’t represented as illustrated by the long list of non-attendees in the minutes issued and the absence of Bus companies.

It was considered that Ian Wright M.P. didn’t understand the framework for buses, introduced in 1986 which the Labour Government didn’t alter when in power. If an operator wasn’t prepared to run buses then it should attract a subsidy but if no one was prepared to offer the subsidy then the buses simply wouldn’t run. It was claimed that the Mayor had broken the subsidy and redirected the money to the Tall Ships.


It was reported that Coastliners had been very active since the last FOHS meeting and were represented, along with other groups at a TPE Stakeholder Event on 6 October at Leeds and the topics covered were largely the same as the meeting at York. One prominent piece of information to come out of that meeting was that the biggest source of accident on the railway is people falling through the gap between train and platform.

We were further informed of the Coastliners Open meeting of 8 October in Scarborough St. held at 5.p.m. to meet with Joe Willis of the Northern Echo in order to explore how to support and promote his Right Lines campaign seeking improvement in rail services. There was a useful exchange of opinions and Joe Willis had since written articles in which he had referred to Coastliners and was a useful ally to have onside.

The problem of finances was creating problems to be overcome.

A reprint of the Coastliners brochure was also in hand with Pete Myers of Northern agreeing to fund any updates and changes necessary. Model Railway dates for Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Redcar had been aired and although as yet unfinalised it was considered the Hartlepool date may be in October rather than the customary July.

There was to be on 2 December a Joint Open Meeting with SLUG hosted by TPE with speakers from TPE and Northern and Pete Myers. This was to be held in the refreshment room on Middlesbrough station.

Any Other Business:

A recent case in the press was referred to of fighting on the GC and concern was expressed that prosecutions had not followed. Reports of drunks on the trains reflected badly on Hartlepool. However they couldn’t be stopped boarding if they had a return ticket and were considered fit for boarding.

These sorts of incidents focused attention on the 180’s which should thereby incorporate security cameras into their pending upgrades.

Details of Next Meeting:

The next meeting was to take place at 9-13 Scarborough Street, Hartlepool, on Thursday 29 January 2015 at 10.00 a.m. to be immediately followed by the GC Ambassadors meeting.

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