Meeting documents

Scrutiny Streets, Environment & Homes Sub-Committee
Wednesday, 22nd June, 2016

Streets, Environment and Homes Scrutiny Sub-Committee Minutes

Date:
Wednesday 22nd June 2016
Time:
6:30 p.m.
Place:
Council Chamber, the Town Hall, Katharine Street, Croydon CR0 1NX
 

Attendance Details

Present:

Councillor J Buttinger, Councillor S Fitzsimons, Councillor S Mann, Councillor M Selva, Councillor D Speakman, Councillor A Stranack, Councillor S Bashford (Also In attendance)

Also present:
Solomon Agutu, Head of Democratic Services and Scrutiny, Ian Plowright, Head of Transport, Steve Heeley, Borough Engagement Manager for Croydon, Transport for London (TfL), Ben Craig, Brighton Mainline upgrade programme sponsor, Network Rail (NR), Mike Smith, Route Enhancement Manager, Network Rail (NR), Charles King, Chair, East Surrey Transport Committee, Tim Bellenger, Director of Policy and Investigation, London Travel Watch, Yusuf Osman, Chair, Mobility Forum, Stephen Ayselford, Mobility Forum, Alan Hannaford, London ReConnections
Absent:
Councillor Patricia Hay-Justice
Apologies for absence:
Councillor Patricia Hay-Justice

Item Item/Resolution
MINUTES - PART A
A26/16 MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING

The minutes of the last meeting held on Tuesday 1 March 2016 were approved as a correct record of the meeting

A27/16 DISCLOSURE OF INTEREST

There were none.

A28/16 URGENT BUSINESS (IF ANY)

There was none.

A29/16 EXEMPT ITEMS

RESOLVED to confirm the allocation of business between Part A and Part B of the agenda.

A30/16 COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIP, CHAIRING AND TERMS OF REFERENCE

The Head of Democratic Services and Scrutiny introduced this item. The Sub-Committee were requested to give a steer to officers regarding the scope of the Housing portfolio that had now been moved to the Sub-Committee. It was noted that the Council has a number of scrutiny bodies that look at housing including the Tenants and Leaseholders Panel and the Housing Scrutiny committee. It was therefore important not to duplicate work already undertaken elsewhere in the Council.

 

Sub-Committee Members identified the following areas to add to the terms of reference:

  • Council housing policy and procedure
  • Registered social landlords
  • Provision of affordable housing
  • Home ownership and routes into home ownership
  • Care homes
  • Reviewing the landlord licensing scheme
  • The private rented sector
  • Work in partnership with other review and scrutiny bodies within the Council.

 

With the inclusion of the amendments stated above, the Sub-Committee RESOLVED to approve and adopt the Terms of Reference.
 

A31/16 TRANSPORT HUBS AND ACCESSIBILITY ISSUES

The Chair welcomed the participants to the meeting and introduced the report and associated appendices. It was noted that the Department of Transport were unable to send a representative to attend but had submitted a statement (at Appendix C of the report) and had made an undertaking to respond to questions arising from the meeting.
The invited speakers made opening submissions and were questioned by the Sub-Committee.

 

Steve Heeley from Transport for London (TfL) made the following submissions:

  • London Overground (LO) falls under TfL's control and manages both West Croydon and Norwood Junction. LO operates under a different system to franchises such as Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) - the network is run by a private operating company called London Overground Rail Operations Ltd (LOROL) under a Concession Agreement with TfL. Therefore, whilst funding from the Department for Transport (DfT) is sought through partnership between both TfL and LOROL, it is the latter who is responsible for the management of stations.
  • There are no immediate plans to upgrade Norwood Junction and there is currently no funding for such works. However TfL are working with the Council and Network Rail to make improvements at the station.
  • Norwood Junction is not the only station on the East London Line that is not step-free; Anerley, Shadwell and Rotherhithe are examples of restricted access stations. However over half of all LO network stations are step free. There are also business plans in place for a further eight stations on the network to be upgraded to step-free access.
  • LO look for "black holes" in the networks - geographical areas that lack accessible stations. Norwood Junction is situated near stations that do have accessibility, such as West Croydon, and will therefore be a lower priority to stations situated in such inaccessible black holes.
  • The new Mayor of London has made a statement just this afternoon promoting a more ambitious plan for step free access across the London network.
  • A similar accessibility drive is taking place for London Underground however this is not eligible for Access for All funding. As such, alternative funding streams have been sought from local authorities, third party investors, and developers.
  • There are clearly some quick wins on accessibility such as improving customer service at stations. A commitment was made to meet with LOROL and Mobility Forum representatives at West Croydon to identify some of these quick wins at the station.
  • Having an "off-the-shelf" plan for Norwood Junction will be expensive but seed funding could be sourced and it would likely put the station in a stronger position to receive DfT funding. This is something that the Council could work in partnership with TfL and Network Rail on.
  • GTR have a newly appointed accessibility manager - contact details will be passed to the Council to engage in dialogue on the outcomes of this meeting.


Ben Craig from Network Rail (NR) made the following submissions:

  • The Brighton Main-Line investment will bring large investment into East Croydon station. The works will provide solutions to the track bottleneck at Selhurst, and also see East Croydon extended to eight platforms and become a world class facility.
  • As part of the Main-Line upgrade there will also be major works undertaken at Norwood Junction however these will take the form of track improvements and not work on the station itself.
  • The issue of installing lifts at Norwood Junction is a technical one and not just a funding challenge however attempts will be made to refresh that analysis.
  • There is no proposal to undertake works at West Croydon station however there is awareness that more trains are expected through the station.
  • The key headline for South Croydon is that there is currently no review of the station and no funding from the DfT. Similar to Norwood Junction the issue with improvements is not just financial but logistical as well.
  • There are essentially two options moving forward on the funding issue - wait for central government funding or identify local sources of income.

 

Mike Smith from Network Rail (NR) made the following submissions:

  • If DfT funding simply went to the stations with the highest footfall most funding would end up in the South East of England and not distributed throughout the country. Other considerations to be taken into account are the extent of the engineering works required to make a given station accessible, and the associated costs to such works. The selection process for Access for All funding is therefore not an exact science. Despite this, it is legitimate that the selection process should be transparent.
  • The DfT's franchise specifications contain a number of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and service specifications; it is therefore disappointing to hear of poor customer service feedback at some stations. This feedback will be passed on to GTR and something to raise with the DfT's specification team.
  • Network Rail can help take feasibility studies forward, this has been done with other boroughs such as Bexley and Barnet.
  • The Selhurst and Coulsdon South feasibility studies are currently at the outline design stage, and are planned to be presented to the DfT this autumn.
  • DfT are always looking for projects with multi-party funding assistance. If a project can come forward with private contributions, it may be prioritised.

 

Yusuf Osman made the following submissions:

  • Whilst physical accessibility is important, there are other accessibility issues that are often overlooked, such as users with visual impairments. Staff at stations is crucial to ensure blind people are able to access trains but also services such as ticket offices.
  • Personal experience of using East Croydon as a blind person illustrates the importance of staff at stations. The side-entrance to the station via the taxi rank area used to be staffed and so allowed for access by blind people. Since 2011 this entrance is not regularly staffed and so requires entry via the main entrance which is very busy and therefore more hazardous for blind users.
  • The TfL pilot of the "turn up and go" service at East Croydon has worked very well and it would be a positive step to make this service a permanent one.
  • There is a need for accessible information to plan journeys and to be kept informed when, for example, lifts are out of order. Social media could be employed to support such communication.
  • Denmark Hill is a station with similar narrow platform issues as Norwood Junction but has installed lifts that derogate from regulations. This is a solution that could be explored at Norwood Junction. Additionally - as platform two is not used at the station, this could give some flexibility on the works needed to install lifts.

 

Charles King made the following submissions:

  • The paper from DfT fails to mention that Coulsdon South and Selhurst stations are currently subject to feasibility studies, which are due to report back in the Autumn where they will be considered for funding.
  • The original feasibility report on Norwood Junction station identified the narrowness of platforms two and three as the key barrier to accessibility improvements. A lift from the subway to these platforms would require removing one of the two stairwells that currently provides access - this would be too unsafe for the amount of footfall that flows through these stairwells.
  • Having recently attended a meeting with LOROL, they stated that overhead lifts at Norwood Junction would be looked at. However this would still not deal with the logistical problems of platforms two and three. Despite this, it would be preferable to have some lift installation at Norwood Junction than none at all.
  • The intense focus on South Croydon is misplaced as Purley Oaks station is within the immediate proximity and there is a fast bus service to East Croydon that stops outside South Croydon station, as well as a large number of other bus routes. It would be vastly expensive to make South Croydon station accessible and so priorities should be reconsidered.
  • There are some quick wins for stations within the borough - GTR are looking to reinstate the ramp at Reedham. In addition, the large TfL project at the Fiveways A23 could include upgrading the nearby Waddon station
  • Council lobbying will aid in efforts to get funding for accessibility schemes; lobbying played a role in the successful bids for DfT funding for the Selhurst and Coulsdon South projects. Lobbying could also be focussed on ring-fencing income gained from the substantial fines from late running GTR services for accessibility projects; currently the money goes direct to the Treasury.

 

Tim Bellenger made the following submissions:

  • Penge West is an example of a station on the East London Line that is currently inaccessible; Bromley have a scheme in place to make this a step-free access station.
  • The DfT document states that 75% of journeys start or end at a step free station but this statistic is misleading - a user with mobility issues can only use the service if it is accessible at both ends of the journey. In this regard it is crucial that the smaller, local stations are accessible otherwise it is irrelevant if large stations like East Croydon are step-free as they cannot be accessed in the first place.
  • It is important to stress that accessibility does not end at the rail stations; it is positive that step-free bus stops are growing across the borough. Having clutter-free streets is also important, particularly for blind residents.

 

Stephen Ayselford made the following submissions:

  • The accessible routes into West Croydon station are confusing for those who are not local to the area; platforms one and three are accessed via the car park whilst platform four is only accessible via Station Road. Better signage around West Croydon station is necessary to make navigation to these entrances easier. Similarly, East Croydon's numerous entrance points could be numbered to aid navigation.
  • A further issue with West Croydon is the gate to platform four which is only staffed Monday to Saturday 9am to 8pm, making the platform inaccessible outside of these hours.

 

Alan Hannaford made the following submissions:

  • Whilst platform two is not currently used at Norwood Junction, fencing it off would have the effect of narrowing it still further, which would make installing lifts more challenging.
  • The platforms at South Croydon are very low; raising the platforms would not make the station fully accessible but would at least make it easier for users such as the elderly.

 

Ian Plowright made the following submissions:

  • The Council are working closely with Network Rail and are pushing TfL and LOROL on Norwood Junction. TfL and LOROL made a bid to DfT for a part-funded feasibility study on Norwood Junction whereby both LOROL and TfL would contribute £25,000 each towards the cost. This bid was unsuccessful. With the Main-Line upgrade it is essential that Norwood Junction is made accessible as part of these works.
  • The Council are meeting TfL with regard to the West Croydon Masterplan and the ambitions to develop the station.


In forming its recommendations, the Sub-Committee came to the following conclusions:

  • Accessibility issues are not simply a matter of physical infrastructure but can be resolved through increased and strategic use of staff at stations.
  • There were a number of quick wins identified, such as improving the signage at West and East Croydon stations, which could improve accessibility in the short term. Small improvements should not be overlooked as their impact can be significant.
  • Larger infrastructure projects need to be planned and costed in advance so that they are ready for immediate submission when funding streams become available, particularly via central government's Access for All programme.
  • Whilst there was no immediate solution to the narrow concourses on platforms two and three at Norwood Junction, this should not detract from works taking place to make the rest of the station step-free. It would be better to have some accessibility than none at all. Solutions such as those undertaken at Denmark Hill station, using narrower lifts, should also be considered.
  • Consistency of accessibility services at stations is crucial, such as staffing the same gate at stations to ensure accessibility for blind users.
  • That public transport accessibility is not only a basic human right for disabled residents, but when looked holistically will save Council resources in areas such as social care.

 


RESOLVED -

 

To recommend to the Council and TfL:

  • That the major infrastructure project at Fiveways include plans to upgrade Waddon station to improve accessibility.

 

To recommend to TfL and LOROL:

  • That both parties meet with representatives of the Mobility Forum to discuss quick wins at West Croydon station to improve accessibility.
  • That staffing at West Croydon station is reviewed to ensure accessibility services are available at all times that trains are running through the station.
  • That TfL's successful pilot of the "turn up and go" facility at East Croydon be established as a permanent service.

 

To recommend to the Council and Network Rail:
 

  • That all steps are taken to ensure that the Coulsdon South and Selhurst stations' feasibility studies receive Access for All funding.
  • That a feasibility study into Norwood Junction is re-launched and takes into account the possibility of works being undertaken even if this requires platforms two and three to be removed from any such proposal.

 

To recommend to Network Rail, the Council, and Transport for London:

  • That alternative funding streams are sought for accessibility capital projects, particularly private developers, and that multi-party, match-funding bids are made to the Department for Transport to increase the chances of receiving central government funding.

 

To recommend to the Department for Transport:
 

  • That it be fully transparent over its selection process for Access for All funding, including publishing the criteria used in determining which bids are prioritised for funding.
  • That the franchise team set clear KPIs for staffing levels at rail stations with regard to accessibility services.
     
A32/16 SUB-COMMITTEE WORK PROGRAMME 2016/17

The Chair introduced the item and highlighted the meetings that had been scheduled thus far. It was proposed that the January meeting could be a general review of GTR's performance and the future of the Thameslink service. The item could include a follow up on the accessibility issues raised at this meeting.
It was further proposed that the April meeting could look at housing with a focus on landlords and routes to home ownership.

 

 

RESOLVED - to agree the scrutiny work programme for the Streets, Environment and Homes Scrutiny Sub-Committee 2016-17, attached as Appendix 1 to the report.
 

MINUTES - PART B
  None