Page last updated at 12:46 GMT, Thursday, 2 February 2006

MPs tell of train station misery

One MP accused a train company of treating customers with disdain

MPs who criticised UK train stations spoke from personal experiences to compile a damning report.

Graffiti and poor toilets were among the problems highlighted by members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Committee chairman Edward Leigh said a station in his constituency was "disgusting" and a train operator treated customers with "disdain".

The committee examines whether money agreed by Parliament for public spending has been properly spent.

Many of Britain's railway stations are a "poor advertisement" for the country, the PAC concluded.

The Department for Transport says 87m is invested in the network every week.

I have a number of railway stations, all of them are unstaffed in rural areas
Jon Trickett

In oral evidence used to compile the report, Mr Leigh, Conservative MP for Gainsborough, was highly critical of Market Rasen station.

He said the station's waiting room was in a "disgusting state" and "full of graffiti".

"The operating company, Central Trains, has disgracefully done nothing to repair the waiting room for years," he added.

Addressing George Muir, of the Association of Train Operating Companies, he went on: "Why apparently are you completely powerless against a train operating company that treats its customers with such grotesque disdain?"

Wheelchair access

Mr Leigh was not alone in making complaints.

Jon Trickett, Labour MP for Hemsworth, said: "I have a number of railway stations, all of them are unstaffed in rural areas."

And, citing Mawthorpe station as an example, he described meeting "a chap in a wheelchair who was going to his auntie's funeral but was unable to get onto the train from the platform".

The MP said: "It is a disgrace, is it not, that a person going to a funeral is unable to get there?

"There appears to be very slow progress in relation to the Disability Discrimination Act."

Maintaining standards

And Mr Trickett added: "In the case of South Anston Station and Featherstone Station in my constituency, they are in a filthy and disgraceful condition.

"The fact of the matter is that the franchisee, as far as I know, has made no provision - nor has anybody else - to carry out the necessary enhancements.

"They have not even been able to maintain standards."

The committee found one-third of larger stations in England and Wales had no waiting rooms and there were no toilets at about 15%.

More than half of Britain's stations were not fully accessible to parents with young children or disabled people.

An investigation into whether new standards for stations could be added to existing franchise deals has been called for by committee members.

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