In April and May this year five members of the FoFNL Committee divided all the stations on the line between them and visited each armed with a questionnaire. The aim was to look at all aspects of each station that affect passengers and to report the findings to ScotRail and Network Rail for attention.
The last survey was done in 2015, the pandemic causing a longer gap than usual. Rather disappointingly many issues raised then were still extant.
The results were tabulated and two summary documents created. The table and the two summaries were then sent on to ScotRail to work with NR as required. These documents are available on this issue's companion page.
To give an idea of what we found it would be fair to say that some easy-to-fix issues such as litter are being kept under control, but items requiring more work, such as the provision of tactile edging to increase safety for the visually impaired, have been allowed to lapse.
A particular issue on several stations is non-working help buttons. Given the problems the railway sometimes experiences with the Customer Information Screens these are essential. The good news is that, as part of an ongoing communications upgrade, they are likely to be working fairly soon.
There are many problems for disabled passengers; six of the more remote stations have sub-standard platform surfaces making wheelchair use difficult, dangerous or impossible; some stations have no step-free access to the other platform and some have rough ground at the station approach. Obviously the provision of lifts where there are two platforms would be prohibitively expensive. It would seem that the only possible solution is a fixed track crossing which would require certain safety aspects to be covered, as well as the need for help from train staff, and quite probably a derogation from the Office of Rail and Road which is the safety regulator.
We also looked at cycle storage provision and car parking, both of which are important to encourage the public to use the railway. Station signage outside is sometimes insufficient - there's no point in hiding the stations! Local maps were sometimes erroneous and bus information was absent at all stations except Inverness.
We have not yet had a detailed response from ScotRail or NR but this is understandable given the extreme disruption caused by industrial action, which is using up many personnel resources. Assurance that this is a worthwhile exercise comes from David Simpson, ScotRail's Service Delivery Director, who said, "This is an invaluable survey which does give us and the NR team a good insight into what's needed."