Well, what busy bees we’ve been.
When we last wrote a full campaign update back in November we’d just started meeting the ROSCOs (rolling stock companies – companies that own the trains). We’ve since met with almost all the ROSCOs and many of the main train manufacturers, caught up with some of the TOCs (train operating companies) we’ve met before and built contacts with some that we haven’t.
What we’ve uncovered is that there is enormous amounts of support for our campaign but that, in such a fragmented system, it is very easy – too easy – to point the finger at someone else to make the change happen. On the whole, TOCs said they could only make changes if told by the ROSCOs or the Department for Transport, ROSCOs said they could only make changes if instructed by the TOCs, manufacturers said they could only design in pram space if instructed by the ROSCOs. One thing around which there was clear consensus, however, was that all roads lead to the Department for Transport. So, we met with them – Peter Wilkinson, to be precise, the Managing Director for Passenger Services. Peter was immensely supportive of our campaign, and told us that if the TOCs put in a case for the Department to create space for prams, it would be given serious consideration.
The trouble is, nobody has been asking for it.
This, however, may be about to change; one TOC has indicated to us that they’re brave enough to take the leap. Watch this space, and other TOCs, take note!
Which leads us nicely onto our biggest campaign set piece yet; the launch of a national scorecard comparing TOCs against one another for their family friendliness (you can read the full scorecard results in our press release). It will come as no surprise to many parents to learn that the results were disappointing, with most TOCs scoring extremely low. We intend to repeat the scorecard next year to see who has taken up the challenge and upped their game.
Around that time, one of the lowest scorers, Avanti, unveiled a shiny new refurbishment of their existing Pendolino fleet, which included (drum roll please) absolutely no improvement in their provision for families. We were disappointed, given we met with Avanti 11 months previously. So, we got in touch with Avanti and caught up with them; unfortunately this refurbishment was signed off over two years ago, pre-pandemic. One strong message we’ve received from all parts of the rail industry is that now commuter levels are lower than they were pre-pandemic, the industry is looking seriously at how it attracts other customers, meaning this is a good time for people travelling without laptops to speak up. Unfortunately for Avanti this means they’re launching a refurbishment that doesn’t match the current mood, or the needs of the modern passenger. They are, however, supportive of our aims and are looking at what else they can change to make travel for families a little easier, even if they have missed the boat on creating pram space until their next refurbishment comes around (we understand from contacts in the industry that this could be another 10-15 years).
Other parts of the rail industry are making some interesting strides; with thanks to ROSCO Angel Trains we were invited to give feedback to train design concept agency PriestmanGoode, who developed a train interior design that included flexible space for prams and pushchairs – visitors to Marylebone station may have seen the mock-up in March. It goes to show what is possible providing there’s appetite among decision makers to give it a go. We understand, however, that the TOC they were designing it for has decided against that design and will be approaching them to learn more.
We’ve made connections with other campaigners like the Campaign for Better Transport and Transport Action Network, who have offered us amplification and advice for which we’re really grateful. We’ve also fed into a few consultations: Firstly the House of Lords Built Environment Committee’s ‘Public Transport in Towns and Cities’ consultation and secondly Network Rail’s consultation about station design, checking out their virtual reality station demo in Manchester. Unfortunately the designs leave much to be desired from a family friendly perspective, but we’ve given our feedback and hope it will be taken on board (no pun intended…ok, maybe a little bit).
One final piece of big news: Since our last update we’ve met twice with the Rail Delivery Group about getting space for unfolded pushchairs included in the Key Train Requirements document; the guidance issued to the industry for the basic design specification for new trains and refurbishments. We are sincerely hopeful that we’ll see pram space make it into the next Key Train Requirements publication later this year. Both the Department for Transport and the Rail Delivery Group’s CEO Jac Starr have been very helpful in supporting this aspect of our campaign. While it’s not the entirety of our campaign, space for unfolded prams on trains is our absolutely core demand, so it will be an enormous victory if we can secure it.
There is lots more we’d like to do but at present we’re a team of volunteer parents trying to squeeze all of this round our day jobs (which includes parenting!) so more help is always appreciated. Let us know if you can offer any support!