Great British Railways: Chesterfield residents call for improvements to train services

Rail passengers in Chesterfield have called for cheaper fares, punctual services and more carriages at peak times.

By Michael Broomhead
Friday, 21st May 2021, 1:34 pm

They spoke after the Government announced plans for sweeping reforms of the rail industry across the country.

A new state-owned body, Great British Railways (GBR), will set timetables and prices, sell tickets in England and manage rail infrastructure.

Chesterfield train station. Pictures by Brian Eyre.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said it would replace an ‘overcomplicated and fragmented’ system.

The Derbyshire Times visited Chesterfield town centre on Friday to speak to residents about rail services and the Government’s proposals.

“I welcome the GBR plans – I think rail services will be better if they’re run by the Government,” said 56-year-old Nicki Witham

“I don’t get the train very often – if I do, it’s to go to Sheffield or London – but I would like to see cheaper fares.

Nicki Witham.

“I think that would encourage me and others to travel by rail more.”

Her daughter Chloe, 24, added: “I spend quite a lot of money on train travel – for me, prices are definitely the biggest issue.”

Karen Ritchie, 52, said she wanted to see ‘more on-time trains’ and cleaner carriages.

James Ritchie, 55, said: “If trains do start to get busier soon, I’d like to see more carriages at busy times.

Chloe Witham.

“Before the pandemic, I remember getting the train to Birmingham and everyone was packed in like cattle – it wasn’t pleasant at all.”

Of the GBR announcement, Karen added: “I don’t trust what the Government says.

“I think it’s all talk.

“Will it all actually lead to improvements for passengers?”

Karen Ritchie.

GBR will replace the current track operator, Network Rail, in 2023.

The Government said the new system will look more like Transport for London, with multiple operators under one brand.

According to the Government, a more unified rail system will lead to more ‘high-quality, consistent services’ from 2023 onwards, plus better connections.

There will also be changes to make travel smoother, including:

- Simplifying the purchase of tickets, which critics have long-complained is confusing

- There will be a ‘significant roll-out’ of more pay as you go, contactless and digital ticketing on smartphones

James Ritchie.

- A single, more straightforward compensation system

From next month, flexible season tickets will be available for some people who commute two or three times a week.

The flexible season tickets will offer savings on certain routes for people who do not travel to work every day, reflecting the expected changes to commuting patterns after the pandemic.

Responding to the Government’s proposals, Scott Knowles, East Midlands Chamber chief executive, said: “The success of Government’s plans will be judged by whether they make travel easier, cheaper and more reliable, which will be crucial in getting more people onto trains and more sustainable modes of public transport.

“We welcome the pledge to increase flexibility through a new approach to season tickets.

“Working patterns were evolving beyond traditional hours before the pandemic but the desire for a more agile lifestyle has crystallised over the past 14 months.

“The future of work will likely be a hybrid between office and home for some sectors and our public transport system should reflect this.

"Hopefully, these changes will also incentivise people to return to our cities and towns as we emerge from lockdown restrictions.”

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