Contents Listing - Articles & Features in this issue
heap-and nasty-travel - EDUCTION in staff and other station costs is certainly necessary to help B.R. passenger traffic to pay its way. However, to reduce such costs by curtailing the facilities expected, if not specifically demanded, by the travelling public may well drive traffic away. The nice balance is hard to determine and harder to achieve. One thing is certain. The railway, at present, has not so many advantages to offer in face of the convenience, cheapness and increasing speed of road travel that it can afford to reduce its standards of amenity and comfort.
For these reasons, we cannot agree with some of the drastic economy proposals made by Mr. Rupert Shervington, Movement Officer, Southern Region, in his article in the last issue of British Transport Review. They are in essence: reduction in staff both at larger stations, by ceasing to offer porterage (what he calls part of the tradition of " flunkeyism " inherited from the stage coach), and smaller stations, which would become halts, with ticket issue by conductor guards. Obviously he is thinking in terms of the smaller stations in his own Region, for he seems to overlook the demands of longei-distance and casual travellers. As to the numbers of porters at London termini and other large stations, it has long been obvious that their productivity is very low and that only a small proportion of passengers need their services; but many people using, say, Kings Cross, do want porters, more specially when arriving by long-distance train and seeking a taxi. If B.R. is to eater for long-distance passenger traffic, this need must be provided for. Closing of carriage doors demands only a small staff even at a large station, if the men are properly deployed. If, apart from covering other duties such as station cleaning, the attempt to staff platforms with potential baggage carriers simply results in waste of manpower, we suggest the farming out of porterage to private enterprise. Not so many years ago there were licensed " outside porters " who plied for hire, wheeling passengers' belongings through the streets. Mr. Shervington cites Victoria Coach Station as a place where " one carries one's own luggage, for no porters are employed and asks: " Why not at Victoria Railway Station? " Most users of Victoria are commuters, day trippers to the seaside, or impecunious holidaymakers with children; but as long as the Southern runs Continental boat trains and makes any attempt to cater for the more affluent (or elderly or infirm) passenger to the Southern Counties, Mr. Shervington's suggestion will not do. In support of his argument for turning some smaller stations into halts, he postulates a fictitious country station, Normansbridge, 45 miles from London in the outer commuting area and served by hourly corridor trains. It is, he states, " typical of thousands ". It is horrifying to read that whilst the staff consists of a stationmaster, booking clerk, three leading porters and three signalmen, business transacted on weekdays averages a sale of only 101 ordinary and three season tickets and despatch of 14 parcels, besides a little motor-car parking and a wagon or two of coal received (for general merchandise is now handled elsewhere). Excluding signalmen, 40 man-hours are spent daily on duty. A generous estimate of the time taken to carry out the work is six hours a day. Incidentally, one may wonder why a station with such little traffic has its own stationmaster. Obviously the staff must be cut. Mr. Sheivington's solution is the issue, collection and examination of tickets by conductors or travelling clerks, who " would also undertake the duties of guards ". He does not say what the Ministry of Transport's reaction is likely to be from the safety aspecta€looking out for signals, for instance. No doubt, as he supposes, there would be plenty of time for ticket issue between stops and additional conductors could travel at peak hours; even four on one train would cost no more than the present arrangement, whilst stations could be staffed at busier periods. Season tickets would be issued on prior application, prepared at a central office and either exchanged for cash by the conductor next day, called for at the terminus of some large centre, or sent by post; this would not please some commuters,
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