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Wednesday, 2 October, 2002, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Jon's 10-point rail plan
Railtrack is about to meet its Waterloo, but Britain's commuters still face a daily struggle to work. Our Rail Commuter Champion has some small suggestions that he says could make a big difference.

Railtrack's estimated time of demise is 7 o'clock on Thursday morning - just as thousands of beleaguered rail commuters will be fighting their way into work.

The job of sorting out the railways will then fall to its replacement, the not-for-profit Network Rail.

Railtrack House
Railtrack... on its deathbed
It's a mammoth job. But Network Rail and the train companies could do a lot now to make life better for Britain's rail users. Small things could make a big difference, says Jon Yuill, the Rail Commuters' Champion chosen by BBC News Online users.

Here, Jon sets out 10 simple ideas to make life more bearable for fellow commuters.

1. Better communication

It's impossible to overstate the need for good communication in times of trouble. You can be on a train, delayed for half-an-hour and no one tells you a thing. Tell us why we are stuck, what's being done to fix the situation, how long the delay is likely to be. Use the PA system or install scrolling text screens. It's the same when you're waiting at the station. Just tell us what's going on.

2. Common-sense staff

I know platform staff have a hard time and they don't see us commuters at our best - half asleep and rushing to work or back home again.
Jon Yuill
Jon Yuill's update
  • E-mails: Scores of BBC News Online users e-mailed Jon after he was appointed our Rail Commuter Champion
  • Touched: "I'm genuinely touched and heartened by the wonderful response from fellow commuters and BBC News Online users to my new role.
  • Small changes: "It seems I'm not alone in believing small changes could make a big difference.
  • Massive job: "Reviving our railways is a massive job, but simple things, done quickly, could make life a lot more bearable."

  • We do appreciate them, but they must be encouraged to use their common sense and take the initiative. So, for example, when a train is half-an-hour late and everyone's irritated, just open the ticket barriers and let us out of the station as soon as possible.

    3. Get integrated

    Imagine how good it would be if you could get off the train and cycle to work, or home. But on my line, you can't bring bikes on board during rush hour. I know that means more space for passengers but you used to be able to put your bike in the guards' carriage. If that's not possible, how about decent bike parks at stations. They would be well lit and secure so you know your bike would be there at the end of the day. It's not just bikes - bus times also need to be integrated with trains.

    4. Quiet carriages

    Some trains have these already - carriages where mobiles are banned. I don't want to listen to someone else's personal conversations, and nor does anyone else on the train. There should also be a fast-food-free carriage. The smell is awful and just creates more litter.

    5. On-board CCTV

    Violence and loutish, yobbish behaviour is often overlooked as a commuter gripe, but it's real enough and common enough to be a problem. One of the reasons people avoid public transport is the safety threat. Although serious incidents are rare, we have to make sure people can travel without fear of intimidation.

    6. Air-conditioning

    Commuters disembarking
    Station staff must use their loaf to clear platforms fast
    In this day and age, surely it can't be beyond the wit of rail companies to see that we can all travel comfortably. I was told by a rail company once that each carriage has its own thermostat, but you wouldn't know it. It's simple - we need temperature control systems that work.

    7. Litter bins

    The litter bins were withdrawn because of the terrorism threat, but now there's nowhere to put your rubbish. So it goes on the floor. Like the bigger trains, couldn't someone come along with a rubbish bag and collect paper coffee cups. As for old newspapers - what about big cages at the end of platforms where people could just throw their old papers as they got off. These could then be recycled.

    8. Rapid-response fix-it teams

    Helicopters over London
    Send in the Whirlybirds
    My idea is to air-lift emergency engineering teams by helicopter. Perhaps it's far-fetched but the point is when something goes wrong and we're stuck on a train, we have to wait for a beat-up old Transit van to arrive and then the engineers are on foot. Meanwhile, we are all waiting. Think how many millions of pounds this costs in lost working hours and it doesn't sound so crazy after all.

    9. Give passengers preference...

    ...not freight trains. Many times my train is shunted aside so a goods train can get ahead. But what are they doing on the rails at rush-hour times anyway?

    10. These problems are countrywide

    London draws in most commuters and I'm one of them. But commuters up and down the country experience similar frustrations everyday and my simple solutions should applied to benefit as many people as possible.

    Vote: would Jon's plans work? This vote is now closed - 80.42% voted in favour, 19.58% against. 4,122 votes were cast.

    Some of your comments:

    Simple and sensible suggestions
    Dave Muskett, UK

    I agree with all Jon's ideas - most of them are just plain common sense. But I would also add one too: in many areas such as my own one train operator has a monopoly of the comuter station but provides infrequent services outside commuter times but another operator who runs regular stopping services on the line is not allowed to stop at the station.
    Cllr Keith Kirwan, SW England

    What a difference it would make if just some of these ideas could be implemented at first and the rest asap afterwards. For one eg - look at the success of bike-rail combination in overcrowded Holland
    Edward Thomas, Luxembourg

    It's it true what he says about information. People get angry when they do not have the information to make a choice of whether to wait around in the hope, or to make other travel arragements.
    James McAllister, England

    Couldn't agree more with point number one. My god, it drives me mad, and yet, it would be so easy to do.
    Andrew McCargow, UK

    It doesn't take a genius to realise where privatisation went wrong: money was simply not invested in the right amounts at the right time. Jon's ideas are not radical. They are the fundamental requirements of an efficient and reliable passenger service provider.
    David Ledden, UK

    Jon's comments come from the school of common sense and well done to him for putting them so clearly. But there is a pervasive attitude that goes much deeper than the common sense items listed by Jon - one that it's trendy to knock the railways. Come on! Let's all start by getting behind our rail system and giving them the respect and level playing field they deserve to compete.
    David McLeary, England, UK

    There already is/was an emergency engineering helicopter, run by Jarvis Rail for Network Rail/Railtrack. On the point of air-con: this is very important and happily it is included in all the new trains that have been ordered by all companies.
    Philip, England

    As an engineer for one of this country's rail freight operators I am fed up by coments made about the railway from people with no understanding of how the network is operated. Each train journey has a pre-booked path and time, and would only take preferance over another train if that train was late. I find it unhelpful in the way the BBC sensationalises the worst aspects in the pursuit of veiwing figures.
    Ian Hunt, England

    Now I understand how good I have it. Almost all of his suggestions are in place on the trains I use to commute here in the San Francisco Bay Area. These will definitely make a difference in the quality of life for commuters.
    Tracy, USA

    Every night I arrive in Brighton to see a bus owned by the same company as the trains drive off empty, before I can get on it. And, since most peole don't annoy other people with mobile phones, as with smoking one carriage could be reserved for mobile phone addicts.
    John McLean, England

    Congratulations Jon, we're on your side! My commute is so short it shouldn't count (from Wandsworth Town into Waterloo) except for the fact that four days out of five, the timetable is a figment of someone's imagination.
    Christine Jones, UK

    Who's Jon Yuill?
    Your Rail Commuter Champ sets out his stall

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