Stoke-on-Trent Station Travel Plan

Context

Stoke-on-Trent station lies on the West Coast Main Line and lies at the heart of the North Staffordshire conurbation. It is only 2km from Stoke-on-Trent City Centre and 5 km from Newcastle-under-Lyme town centre. It is also only 200 metres from heart of Staffordshire University campus, and 500 metres from the main Stoke-on-Trent City Council civic offices with over 2,000 Council staff.

The station building is listed as it is of architectural value and therefore any alterations require local consent from the City Council. There are many empty rooms within the building which offer potential for wider usage. The station has three platforms with access via a subway or a pedestrian bridge accessed by two lifts on platforms 1 and 2. The station facilities are of a high standard with a first class lounge, a recently modernised foyer and ticket office, waiting rooms and public toilets. A kiosk and café on platform 1 provide refreshments, newspapers, etc.

The station is served by five train operating companies (TOCs). These are Virgin Trains (who operate the station), Cross Country Trains, Northern Rail, East Midlands Trains and London Midland. Between them they provide many fast, frequent, and direct links to London, Birmingham, and Manchester and there are also direct links to Crewe, Derby, and Birmingham Airport. In 2006/07 the station handled over 1.5 million1 passengers a year and this number is growing annually.

The station is located within an area designated as the University Quarter as it offers major opportunities for regeneration and job creation. As well as Staffordshire University in the immediate vicinity, there is also the Stoke-on-Trent College and from 2010, the new Sixth Form College. A travel plan is being developed for the Staffordshire University sites on College Road and Leek Road in Stoke-on-Trent, both of which are within walking distance to the rail station. There are great opportunities for more students and staff to cycle to the university especially as an analysis of their home postcodes have found over half live within 3 miles of the campus.

Need for a Travel Plan

There has been an ongoing dialogue between the City Council and Virgin Trains regarding travel to and from the station over the past ten years The Station Travel Plan allows the partners to formalise the past discussions and encapsulate the main issues into a single document. It also formalises the involvement of other partners and stakeholders particularly the transport providers and the views of the travelling public.

A selection of the key issues are summarised below.

  • Car traffic: Station Road is congested, because as well as providing access to the station car parks it also provides access to Staffordshire University and is used as a cut through for traffic. There is a very high percentage of rail passenger being dropped off outside the station entrance (29%) which adds to the congestion, risk of accidents and visual unattractiveness of the station frontage. There is a need to reduce conflict between the car traffic, bus movements and pedestrian activity in the area.
  • Bus services and facilities: Bus usage by rail passengers is relatively high (26 %) as many services pass by the station and reach a wider area. There are bus stops on both sides of the road. However the bus shelters require upgrading with better passenger information systems. They also need to be relocated to provide sufficient additional space for intending passengers to wait in safety and adequate capacity to accommodate the high frequency of bus services in both directions.
  • Pedestrian facilities: The main routes to and from the station are generally good with crossings provided to gain access to the North Staffordshire Hotel and also to Staffordshire University. However the quality of the paving is poor and the whole area needs a facelift, and numbers will increase following the completion of the new Sixth Form College and University building.
  • Cycle facilities: Cycle parking is available on platform 1 immediately underneath a CCTV camera and next to the British Transport Police office. This is well used and there is a demand for it to be increased. The national cycle route 5 passes in front of the station entrance and there are opportunities for improved signage.
  • Parking facilities: The main car park for the station managed by Virgin Trains is located on the corner of Station Road and Leek Road and is at capacity for most of the day. There is another small car park further along Station Road near the taxi rank. A new car park is currently under construction on the former good yard site at the rear of the station.
  • Travel information: The main foyer of the station has several plasma screens giving real time rail service information. There is also printed timetable information for all rail services and the City Council has a kiosk for journey planning and a stand with local bus timetables. There is scope to further enhance this particularly for bus information, subject to listed building consent.
  • Taxi facilities: A taxi rank and taxi passenger waiting area has been created to help remove traffic away from the front of the station. However there are still congestion issues which require resolving and there are particular issues with private hire vehicles dropping off outside the station entrance.

Description of the process

Key to the development of this document is the collection of information on the characteristics of the station and the travel behaviour of its users. A travel audit took place in the summer of 2008, passenger surveys took place in October 2008, and other information used includes the results of accessibility modelling carried out by the City Council using Accession software and the latest bus and rail timetable information.

A steering group was also convened following several meetings between the City Council and Virgin Trains. The first steering group took place in September 2008 and involved the two principal partners, most of the bus and taxi operators, Staffordshire University, the North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce, and the North Staffordshire Rail Promotion Group. A further meeting took place in January 2009 to confirm the main objectives and actions. Other potential partners such as Keele university will be contacted for their future involvement.

Many of the measures described in the Action Plan involve improving the physical infrastructure outside of the area of the control of Virgin Trains. This means that there needs to be full engagement with the local authorities especially the transport and highway officers and regeneration officers. These all attend the steering group and have been consulted on the earlier draft Action Plan. The draft plan will be sent to the University Quarter steering group for their views as well as the University Quarter Area Wide Travel Plan group. It is intended that the steering group will continue to meet to oversee the delivery of the Action Plan.

The performance of the station action plan will be monitored by the main partners on behalf of the steering group. The targets are all measurable on an annual basis.

Action Plan highlights

  • Updating all household travel literature produced by the partners.
  • Creating a page on the City Council website for Stoke-on-Trent station giving information on access and travel options.
  • Provision of a bus information and timetable screen giving latest bus arrivals / departures and from which stop.
  • Develop a travel plan for station staff
  • Promoting cycling through the Stoke-on-Trent Cycling City initiative.
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