Darlington Station Travel Plan

Context

With over two million rail passenger journeys every year Bank Top Station is a major gateway to Darlington and the Tees Valley. Located on both the East Coast mainline and the Bishop Auckland — Saltburn line the Station serves a catchment area across the Tees Valley, the southern area of County Durham and the north eastern fringes of North Yorkshire.

Key journey destinations are Newcastle upon Tyne, London Kings Cross and Stations to the east, in particular Middlesbrough. The railway runs on an embankment through the urban area; with the Station situated on hill approximately 15 minutes walk east of the town centre.

Need for a Travel Plan

Darlington Bank Top Station's position on the national rail network is a major asset for the Borough. This plan aims to help strengthen the Station's role in supporting the overall vision for Darlington.

Description of the process

Work on developing the Station Travel Plan took place over the period September 2008 — March 2009, this has included:

  • Meetings of the travel plan steering group, involving representatives from the rail industry and the Council.
  • An audit of the Station and approaches to the Station.
  • Passenger surveys at the Station (277 surveys completed).
  • An invitation to complete an online passenger survey emailed to Darlington businesses, rail season ticket holders and Local Motion club members (168 surveys completed).
  • A Talking Together Event held at the Dolphin Centre plus engagement with residents via a request for comments by email and telephone.
  • Consultation with representatives from Darlington Association on Disability
  • Consultation with members of Darlington Cycle Forum.
  • Consultation with Bank Top and Central Community Partnerships.

Comments received at the Talking Together event and via phone and email focused on physical improvements or improvements to levels of service, for example better connectivity with buses. Where practicable, suggestions from the public have been incorporated into the Station Travel Plan action plan.

Officers from Darlington Borough Council have taken the lead on coordinating the development of the travel plan.

A more detailed version of the travel plan than this summary will be presented to Darlington Borough Council's Cabinet in the Spring of 2009. The plan will be accompanied by a report recommending that Cabinet approve the travel plan and that they agree to the Council's participation in working with rail industry partners to deliver, subject to further consultation with affected parties the short (2009/10) and medium (2010/11) term measures identified in the travel plan.

Action Plan highlights

The proposed actions identified in the travel plan aim to deliver a package of measures. such as improving infrastructure, providing better travel information and promoting sustainable travel options to existing and potential rail passengers. Highlights of the year one (2009/10) actions include:

  • Publication of a local travel leaflet for onwards travel from the Station
  • Refurbishment of an existing local tourist information room to provide local travel information in the Station.
  • Installation of secure cycle parking (potentially operated via a smart card)

Highlights for year 2 (2010/11)

  • Operation of a cycle hire scheme (subject to a proven business case).
  • Better pedestrian signing from the town centre to the Station

Key lessons learned

It is still very early in the Station Travel Plan programme to be clear about the key lessons learned. However key issues that have arisen so far include:

  • The importance of managing public engagement, so as to generate positive discussion and ideas whilst being careful to manage expectations.
  • The need to (and benefit in) engage with special interest groups, in particular disabled rail passengers.
  • The potential for a single issue (in the case of Darlington, gating of the Station) to dominate debate. This did not happen, but nevertheless gating has been a contentious issue with the public and with elected members of the Council.
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