Railwatch

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Railwatch 086 - November 2000

The future of stations

This is the scene at Cooden Beach station near Bexhill, Sussex, where Connex has transformed the station into a convenience store, selling newspapers, snacks and groceries.

The idea is to make the station a useful centre for the local population and bring in extra business while retaining the facility for issuing tickets and increasing Connex staff levels.

Connex has an agreement with Hachette Distribution Services and Groupe Elior to set up a joint venture company to develop joint retail and rail ticket outlets within the 400 railway stations operated by Connex in the south east. Hachette and Elior operate outlets in airports, railway stations, motorways and museums across Europe and North America, including the Louvre and Eiffel Tower in Paris.

The deal is aimed at cross-subsidising re-vamps at little-used stations with the revenue from popular ones. Importantly, the contract covers stations as a whole, spreading the risk and rewards across the whole network. This means that prime locations will not be cherry picked at the expense of locations with much lower traffic and revenue potential.

The aim is to make the stations the heart of the local community and other facilities may be added, including cash machines, cafes and dry cleaning. All train operators should copy this venture.

Stations are ideal places to operate something like Tesco's cash-back scheme which allows you to withdraw money from your bank account while paying your grocery bill.

Stations would also make ideal internet cafes where customers could check and consider various travel options online instead of wasting the time of ticket clerks and delaying other passengers with long, involved queries. They could find the answers themselves if the national fares manual and the routeing guide was available online. These two manuals should also be in every public library.

At present, rail companies and staff are happy to see many passengers kept in the dark so they do not ask for the cheapest tickets. The effect of course is to prevent many other people from even considering going by rail.

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