Do Unmanned Stations Still Have Station Managers?

Status
Not open for further replies.

Capvermell

On Moderation
Joined
5 Jan 2014
Messages
169
In the course of pursuing issues that I currently have with various rail fare websites (including that of National Rail who claim to be the "definitive source") not offering either any fare or a return fare on journeys from my local station (Ockley in Surrey) and its two neighbouring stations (Holmwood and Warnham) to stations on other train networks that seem to be caused by the stations not being in a station Routeing Group but only Associated with two Routeing Groups (Dorking Stations and Horsham) I have begun to worry about whether these totally unmanned stations still have any Station Manager assigned to them by Southern or its parent group (Govia Thameslink Railway). You can read my original thread re the fares issue at www.railforums.co.uk/threads/ockley-to-rainham-kent-no-fare-150-overcharge-fares.220702/

Having lived here for 24 years I can say that under the previous operator (Connex South Central) prior to Southern/Govia getting the franchise that posters showing a station manager for Ockley (along with their photo) were definitely displayed there even though the manager was located elsewhere at Horsham, two stops down the line. However under Southern they either didn't publish the station manager's name on any posters from the start or stopped doing so after a few years. I have tried asking Nick Parker, who is shown as being Head of Stations at Southern on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/nickparkergb/ this question via a LinkedIn message (I seem to have good enough third party connections with him to be able to do so even though I am a free LinkedIn member) but although I have a read receipt for my message so far he has not responded to me.

As I frequently have station specific issues that include the failure of Southern to properly and adequately maintain and repair the Grade II listed station canopy at Ockley, the illogical long term lack of a Saturday evening train service (even though one was provided via a Dorking to Horsham shuttle train for nearly a year under the Lockdown timetable) and the recent removal of any train timetables from the 7 timetable sized display boards at the station next to the ticket vending machine (they now all only contain marketing and information posters) I really do feel it would be very helpful to know who the station manager is at Ockley and also for Holmwood and Warnham (if it is not in fact the same person as I would suspect it to be if there are still Station Managers for these three stations) but Southern/GoVia appears to prefer to keep the matter as a closely guarded secret.

Does anyone who reads this forum have access to any databases in relation to station staffing and management that could give me a definitive answer on the question of whether Holmwood, Ockley and Warnham unmanned stations do still have a named individual station manager that is responsible for their maintenance, upkeep, safety and security?
 
Last edited:
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in
R

RailUK Forums

Whisky Papa

Member
Joined
8 Aug 2019
Messages
271
From my experience at Northern, I would doubt that the station manager is likely to have any direct input into the timetable process (as per your comment about the lack of a Saturday evening service), although certainly they should be responsible for publicising the timetable on-station.

Northern did also go via the route of naming a manager on their staffed and unstaffed stations, but that was some years ago so not sure what their current policy is.
 

mrcheek

Established Member
Joined
11 Sep 2007
Messages
1,308
I recall some years ago that several TOCs made a big thing about having a manager responsible for each individual station. At small, unstaffed halts, they even put up posters showing the person in question, with name, contact address, and a picture with a cheerful smile.
Im guessing these people then got bombarded with complaints that they could do nothing about, so they quietly removed the posters......
 

skyhigh

Established Member
Joined
14 Sep 2014
Messages
1,702
There will be a station manager, though they will normally cover a fairly wide group of stations.

I suspect it's a deliberate decision not to provide a name and contact details, so I doubt anyone on here will be willing to provide them if they know. The station manager will have no input on decisions such as timetables or timetable posters - they will be company wide decisions. On my TOC timetable posters were removed during the course of the pandemic as timetables changed at short notice, but they're starting to return. I wouldn't be surprised if that's the case here.
 

Gathursty

Established Member
Joined
31 May 2011
Messages
2,248
Location
Wigan
I did think it was good to have contact details for someone responsible for my local line in Northern land however a photo and name could be problematic for reasons mentioned above. I'd be quite happy for there to be a phone number and email contact for the Kirkby branch/Wigan local lines etc...
 

DarloRich

Veteran Member
Joined
12 Oct 2010
Messages
25,924
Location
Fenny Stratford
There will be someone responsible for the station. They will have a number of stations under thier "control". They wont be a fat controller type and wont be able to influence timetabling or service provision and not fare structures! At a push they may be able to signpost issues with fabric or maintenance to the relevant person or team and get them added to the cycle of repairs and then see they happen. They should be able to sort out things like timetable posters but they may have been withdrawn due to the COVID impact on the timetable.

I have always found twitter to be a good avenue for logging issues with litter, dog waste and minor maintenance issues I have found at my local unmanned stations. They seem to get sorted out quite quickly.

No one is going to respond to a linked in message as it is not controlled or on the company systems so not trackable.
I'm guessing these people then got bombarded with complaints that they could do nothing about, so they quietly removed the posters......
Much as the OP is about to do...................................
 

Horizon22

Established Member
Associate Staff
Jobs & Careers
Joined
8 Sep 2019
Messages
3,532
Location
London
Everywhere will have a station manager of some description. Down that line of route they’ll probably do several stations with a hub (possibly Horsham, but depends how Southern geographically arrange).

SMs are usually more involved in staff/performance management, rostering, various projects and generalised complaints. As for the complaints - which is basically what these are - they’d go through the usual customer services route and cascade down to the local / area management team.

Specific posters were generally abandoned by TOCs as, in the modern era, many were being hunted down on social media and the like and it can already be a fairly stressful “jack of all trades” role with limited direct power. Wouldn’t be surprised if Southern did this in 2016 after all the DOO strikes.

A lot of what you mention is not within the gift of local management to solve, being variously under the direction of facilities, train planning or marketing directly. Although by all means you can raise these issues vis Customer Services / Twitter or various other forms.

Does anyone who reads this forum have access to any databases in relation to station staffing and management that could give me a definitive answer on the question of whether Holmwood, Ockley and Warnham unmanned stations do still have a named individual station manager that is responsible for their maintenance, upkeep, safety and security?
Anyone who did would not be sharing this on a public forum, although as mentioned above, there will definitely be someone named, although unmanned stations may have direct involvement from other teams (e.g.facilities) who check in from time to time; that’s how it worked on a line I used to live on a few years back anyway
 

Capvermell

On Moderation
Joined
5 Jan 2014
Messages
169
I suspect it's a deliberate decision not to provide a name and contact details, so I doubt anyone on here will be willing to provide them if they know. The station manager will have no input on decisions such as timetables or timetable posters - they will be company wide decisions. On my TOC timetable posters were removed during the course of the pandemic as timetables changed at short notice, but they're starting to return. I wouldn't be surprised if that's the case here.

Then what is the point of having them at all if they aren't based at the station they are responsible for and no passenger who uses the station knows who they are or can contact them about any issue at the station.

Perhaps if Southern's telephone contact centre with Teleperformance wasn't so utterly dreadful (and usually almost impossible to get through to without waiting an hour on hold) and the staff there so apparently disinterested in most issues raised and so unable and/or unwilling to resolve them I wouldn't feel the need to contact a Station Manager.

The long and the short of it seems to be that nobody seems to care about what happens at an Unmanned Station. Yet only two stations away at Horsham they have heaps of staff around waving batons to despatch trains and announcing attachment and detachment of trains for most of the day, all of which I am sure could happen just as well if they weren't actually there and a few cameras and automated confirmation train carriage attachment circuits replaced what the staff do while no doubt allowing fares to be considerably lower than they currently are.

EDIT:- I have now had a reply from the person identified as being Head of Stations at Southern in their LinkedIn entry (I would give their name but this site does not seem to approve of doing that) who I emailed directly at their gtrailway.com email address.

In any case they say "Our station managers will potentially have a number of stations under them, for example the station manager at Horsham is responsible for all the stations between Horsham and Dorking inclusive". I don't know if he is including Dorking as being managed from Horsham or not. I suspect he probably just means Holmwood, Ockley and Warnham but he then goes on to say "I will follow up with them on the upkeep issue you have identified to check that this is on the maintenance plan with Facilities, as I’m sure you can appreciate, with circa 150 stations, significant planning, coordination and prioritisation is required depending on the requirements." and finishes by saying "Looking at the nature of the other points that you have raised, these would be better directed to GTR Public Affairs Team ([email protected] ) because these are linked to timetables and fares availability on websites etc."

In any case good of this person to reply and clarify that the station manager for Holmwood, Ockley and Warnham is based at Horsham just as they were back in Connex Days, although I don't know if this is the same person as the Horsham Station Manager or not. The Horsham Station Manager also seems to be unidentified on Southern's websites or station posters, although I am sure one could find out who it was on the ground at the station from other staff there.

The fact that the COVID lockdown timetable had a Saturday evening shuttle service between Dorking and Horsham until around 2340 (time train left Dorking) is really my biggest issue of all as if they were prepared to run the service then with almost no customers then why they aren't prepared to still run it now with people actually able to go out for the evening up in London once again. As there is a considerably slower and more expensive Metrobus Route 93 bus service in the daytime on Saturday anyway on Route 93 from Dorking to Horsham the most useful thing Southern could be doing would be covering the Saturday evening period when there is no bus service in the evening. In fact what Southern could really usefully be doing is running a 2 hourly service all day from Dorking to Horsham all day on Saturday and Sunday rather than only an hourly service in the daytime on Saturday on which the last service to Horsham leaves Victoria at 1725.
 
Last edited:

Horizon22

Established Member
Associate Staff
Jobs & Careers
Joined
8 Sep 2019
Messages
3,532
Location
London
Then what is the point of having them at all if they aren't based at the station they are responsible for and no passenger who uses the station knows who they are or can contact them about any issue at the station.

Perhaps if Southern's telephone contact centre with Teleperformance wasn't so utterly dreadful (and usually almost impossible to get through to without waiting an hour on hold) and the staff there so apparently disinterested in most issues raised and so unable and/or unwilling to resolve them I wouldn't feel the need to contact a Station Manager.

Because the vast majority of passengers have no need to contact about an issue? This isn't the 19th century where you've got a chargeman at every halt along the line - a Station Manager will usually manage around 20-40 staff over a geographic area, with a few supervisors at various places. Many colleagues at single-staffed stations may not see their manager for days or even weeks (obviously dependent on the quality of the Station Manager!) although non face-to-face contact may be more regular.

At some locations until someone mentions something, nothing gets done sadly. Being a bit of a pain and causing a thorn in the customer services team can be helpful. I'd suggest the best option is to fill in the online form (you can raise faults inc. with station aspects) - don't have to be on hold for hours and the response will filter down the chain to the local management.

Some of this will also be your perception. How do you know the Grade II canopy isn't being looked after? It might not appear cosmetically great, but structually it might be fine. That being said the area is about to undergo some deep cleaning and refurbishment (see here) so is probably waiting to be resolved in one big go
 

skyhigh

Established Member
Joined
14 Sep 2014
Messages
1,702
The fact that the COVID lockdown timetable had a Saturday evening shuttle service between Dorking and Horsham until around 2340 (time train left Dorking) is really my biggest issue of all as if they were prepared to run the service then with almost no customers then why they aren't prepared to still run it now with people actually able to go out for the evening up in London once again. As there is a considerably slower and more expensive Metrobus Route 93 bus service in the daytime on Saturday anyway on Route 93 from Dorking to Horsham the most useful thing Southern could be doing would be covering the Saturday evening period when there is no bus service in the evening. In fact what Southern could really usefully be doing is running a 2 hourly service all day from Dorking to Horsham all day on Saturday and Sunday rather than only an hourly service in the daytime on Saturday on which the last service to Horsham leaves Victoria at 1725.
This has nothing to do with station managers.

Then what is the point of having them at all if they aren't based at the station they are responsible for and no passenger who uses the station knows who they are or can contact them about any issue at the station.
Surely you couldn't have staff based at a station if it's unstaffed? And if they cover a group of 40 stations, how do they base themselves at each station? The point of the role is to manage the overall operations of the facilities - they have nothing to do with fares, timetables, rolling stock etc

Yet only two stations away at Horsham they have heaps of staff around waving batons to despatch trains and announcing attachment and detachment of trains for most of the day, all of which I am sure could happen just as well if they weren't actually there and a few cameras and automated confirmation train carriage attachment circuits replaced what the staff do while no doubt allowing fares to be considerably lower than they currently are.
I don't know the station but I would guess that a risk assessment has identified that staff are required at that location to allow safe operation. Based on the comment about 'automated confirmation train carriage attachment circuits' I'm not sure you really understand what the staff do.
 

Capvermell

On Moderation
Joined
5 Jan 2014
Messages
169
Based on the comment about 'automated confirmation train carriage attachment circuits' I'm not sure you really understand what the staff do.
I believe they manually and visually check all kinds of aspects of the train attachment and detachment that could one day be checked and actioned by technology. Yet strangely at my local station trains come and go all day without any on station staff needing to be present.

It seems that there are high concentrations of rail staff jobs in one location are involved the unions have managed to dig in harder and more successfully to resist change.
 

Horizon22

Established Member
Associate Staff
Jobs & Careers
Joined
8 Sep 2019
Messages
3,532
Location
London
I believe they manually and visually check all kinds of aspects of the train attachment and detachment that could one day be checked and actioned by technology. Yet strangely at my local station trains come and go all day without any on station staff needing to be present.

It seems that there are high concentrations of rail staff jobs in one location are involved the unions have managed to dig in harder and more successfully to resist change.

Not at all - as mentioned above you don't seem to understand the basics of train dispatch (which is fair enough, many don't!). When trains detach and attach, there is some need for staff presence, but that isn't the main reason they are there. Due to a variety of reasons - inc. footfall, station curvature, signalling layout or operational requirements, dispatchers are needed to ensure the safe and timely dispatch of trains. At other locations this can be done by just a guard and driver, or solely a driver as on Southern (DOO, hence the strikes back in 2016-2018).
 

pdeaves

Established Member
Joined
14 Sep 2014
Messages
4,525
Location
Gateway to the South West
Then what is the point of having them at all if they aren't based at the station they are responsible for
As others have said, you can't be everywhere at once if you are responsible for more than one place. Station managers are generally responsible for making sure the facilities are in good order (tarmac safe, lights working, de-iced in winter, etc. [1]), i.e. managing the physical structure that is the station. If they do a perfect job they will be perfectly invisible (rather like timetable planners in their roles, too) - the railway just gets on with it and runs smoothly.

[1] very simplified, before anyone says 'and what about such-and-such?'!
 

Capvermell

On Moderation
Joined
5 Jan 2014
Messages
169
Not at all - as mentioned above you don't seem to understand the basics of train dispatch (which is fair enough, many don't!). When trains detach and attach, there is some need for staff presence, but that isn't the main reason they are there. Due to a variety of reasons - inc. footfall, station curvature, signalling layout or operational requirements, dispatchers are needed to ensure the safe and timely dispatch of trains. At other locations this can be done by just a guard and driver, or solely a driver as on Southern (DOO, hence the strikes back in 2016-2018).

To be fair although Holmwood, Ockley and Warnham are totally unmanned the trains operating the route do have to pick up a Guard/Train Supervisor to operate the doors and check the platform is clear before the train moves off at these three station. I believe the Electrostar trains are approved for Driver Only Operation but may be there aren't cameras on the platform that would interface with monitors in the driver's cab but for whatever reasons the trains don't run DOO through these three stations but pick up a guard at either Epsom or Dorking so they have one when travelling through the three unmanned stations. But what I don't understand about this is that they can operate without a Guard through also totally unmanned Boxhill & Westhumble one station north of Dorking with just DOO operation and no Guard but is this because Boxhill & Westhumble is under the ultimate control of SouthWestern and they have different DOO rules at their stations, even though its a Southern train operating DOO in their station that also seems to be allowed that I'm experiencing.

There is a South Western page for Boxhill & Westhumble Station at www.southwesternrailway.com/travelling-with-us/at-the-station/box-hill-and-westhumble but they don't have any pages for Ockley, Holmwood and Warnham as they don't operate services south of Dorking.

Whilst I understand what you say about the work of the despatchers I do still think its an old model that has not been interfered with at these train attachment and detachment stations and I don't think there is a need for as many staff as they have since at Sutton, Epsom and Horsham they seem to have enough staff to cover all the platforms for attachment, detachment and despatching all at once (there are gaggles of them all standing around chatting with apparently nothing else to do when there are no trains in the station) but there are never trains in all of the platforms doing the attachment and detachment or terminating or commencing their journey at the station at the same time.
 

Horizon22

Established Member
Associate Staff
Jobs & Careers
Joined
8 Sep 2019
Messages
3,532
Location
London
There's quite a few misguided assumptions in your post which I will try to break down.

To be fair although Holmwood, Ockley and Warnham are totally unmanned the trains operating the route do have to pick up a Guard/Train Supervisor to operate the doors and check the platform is clear before the train moves off at these three station. I believe the Electrostar trains are approved for Driver Only Operation but may be there aren't cameras on the platform that would interface with monitors in the driver's cab but for whatever reasons the trains don't run DOO through these three stations but pick up a guard at either Epsom or Dorking so they have one when travelling through the three unmanned stations.

Those 3 stations are all DOO - the 377s have cameras mounted to the side which the driver uses to dispatch the train from the cab. The On Board Supervisor (OBS) will step out briefly, but only to check from any passengers that may need assistance and aren't involved in the dispatch process.

There is a South Western page for Boxhill & Westhumble Station at www.southwesternrailway.com/travelling-with-us/at-the-station/box-hill-and-westhumble but they don't have any pages for Ockley, Holmwood and Warnham as they don't operate services south of Dorking.

As you mention they're not operating there so have no details - that being said the page for Boxhill & Westhuble is quite detailed for an operator that doesn't manage the station!

But what I don't understand about this is that they can operate without a Guard through also totally unmanned Boxhill & Westhumble one station north of Dorking with just DOO operation and no Guard but is this because Boxhill & Westhumble is under the ultimate control of SouthWestern and they have different DOO rules at their stations, even though its a Southern train operating DOO in their station that also seems to be allowed that I'm experiencing.

The quirks of different operators having different "agreements" (quotes because the Southern system was hugely disruptive, if you remember the strikes) about train dispatch. You've said you "don't understand" although you've grasped that its because of the different rules - and Boxhill & Westhuble is NOT a SWR station; it's Southern's

But what I don't understand about this is that they can operate without a Guard through also totally unmanned Boxhill & Westhumble one station north of Dorking with just DOO operation and no Guard but is this because Boxhill & W
Whilst I understand what you say about the work of the despatchers I do still think its an old model that has not been interfered with at these train attachment and detachment stations and I don't think there is a need for as many staff as they have since at Sutton, Epsom and Horsham they seem to have enough staff to cover all the platforms for attachment, detachment and despatching all at once (there are gaggles of them all standing around chatting with apparently nothing else to do when there are no trains in the station) but there are never trains in all of the platforms doing the attachment and detachment or terminating or commencing their journey at the station at the same time.

Naturally there will be times where there are not trains detatching / attaching or even to dispatch, hence the "down time". But any timetable is normally based on an hourly service. It's not exactly practical to send them home for 17 minutes or whatever it may be. At least they're visible and not hiding anyway in the office which is a normal criticism laid at station staff. Staffing levels will be based on the maximum number required, so based on a peak service. They will need breaks too.
 

Capvermell

On Moderation
Joined
5 Jan 2014
Messages
169
Once upon time Dork
Not at all - as mentioned above you don't seem to understand the basics of train dispatch (which is fair enough, many don't!). When trains detach and attach, there is some need for staff presence, but that isn't the main reason they are there. Due to a variety of reasons - inc. footfall, station curvature, signalling layout or operational requirements, dispatchers are needed to ensure the safe and timely dispatch of trains. At other locations this can be done by just a guard and driver, or solely a driver as on Southern (DOO, hence the strikes back in 2016-2018).

I just think its extreme that at Holmwood, Ockley and Warnham and Boxhill and Westhumble there is never anyone at all there but that at other stations where trains start and finish on the same line there are heaps of people doing old fashioned things like waving hand held bats to send trains off when very clearly all of that could have been replaced by more modern technology. They do use a button the wall at some other stations such as Gatwick Airport.

Surely at these normally totally unmanned stations there ought to be a station person who turns up at a scheduled time of say a couple of hours once a week in perhaps the morning or evening peak so regular travellers from the station can raise any significant issues about maintenance at the station with them.

To either have bodies all over the place at Sutton, Epsom and Horsham on the same line or none at all 7 days a week at rural stations a few stops further down seems to me to be a very remarkable contrast in staffing levels.
 

Horizon22

Established Member
Associate Staff
Jobs & Careers
Joined
8 Sep 2019
Messages
3,532
Location
London
Once upon time Dork


I just think its extreme that at Holmwood, Ockley and Warnham and Boxhill and Westhumble there is never anyone at all there but that at other stations where trains start and finish on the same line there are heaps of people doing old fashioned things like waving hand held bats to send trains off when very clearly all of that could have been replaced by more modern technology. They do use a button the wall at some other stations such as Gatwick Airport.

Surely at these normally totally unmanned stations there ought to be a station person who turns up at a scheduled time of say a couple of hours once a week in perhaps the morning or evening peak so regular travellers from the station can raise any significant issues about maintenance at the station with them.

To either have bodies all over the place at Sutton, Epsom and Horsham on the same line or none at all 7 days a week at rural stations a few stops further down seems to me to be a very remarkable contrast in staffing levels.

That does occasionally happen - some places have say a ticket office open just a few hours each day and others a member of staff will pop down to unstaffed stations to change posters or whatever. To be fair, neither you or I knows what Southern does here but I’m sure they will already be well aware of “significant issues about maintenance”, through regular mandated checks. Additionally, your standard of ‘significant’ may not be one shared by the railway and facilities professionals.
 

The exile

Member
Joined
31 Mar 2010
Messages
649
Location
Somerset
Once upon time Dork


I just think its extreme that at Holmwood, Ockley and Warnham and Boxhill and Westhumble there is never anyone at all there but that at other stations where trains start and finish on the same line there are heaps of people doing old fashioned things like waving hand held bats to send trains off when very clearly all of that could have been replaced by more modern technology. They do use a button the wall at some other stations such as Gatwick Airport.
I'm not quite sure how the replacement of the "old fashioned bat" by a train dispatch button and light signal would do anything to alter the staffing levels. You need someone to "wave the bat", but buttons don't press themselves either - both of them provide an indication to the driver that all necessary platform safety checks have been done and that the train can depart (I'm leaving signal aspects out of the equation here) and the "old fashioned bat" is much cheaper and less prone to failure. What I would imagine has reduced the stress levels of those platform despatchers (if not also the required number of them) is the replacement of slam-door units. At least you don't now have passengers wrenching open doors just as the train is about to be divided!
It also occurs to me that since trains divide / join at Horsham, some of the "heaps of people" you see on the platform may well be the crew of one of the portions either waiting to take over their bit of the train or having just come off a portion now going forward as part of a longer train.
There are of course "Meet the manager" sessions held (usually during the evening peak) at larger stations - or at least there would be under non-pandemic conditions - at which you would have every opportunity to raise some of these issues. As the name suggests, concerns raised there go straight to "the manager". However it wouldn't be a sensible use of human resources to hold them at smaller stations (for a start, many would have to be held in the open, which would not exactly encourage participation), so holding them at larger stations like Horsham (which sees as many passengers in 4 days as Ockley does all year) or Dorking is much more practical.
Alternatively - is there a local Rail Users group (see https://www.railfuture.org.uk/ for a list) - again some of the meetings / activities of these will no doubt have been curtailed over the last 18 months.
 
Last edited:

Horizon22

Established Member
Associate Staff
Jobs & Careers
Joined
8 Sep 2019
Messages
3,532
Location
London
I just think its extreme that at Holmwood, Ockley and Warnham and Boxhill and Westhumble there is never anyone at all there but that at other stations where trains start and finish on the same line there are heaps of people doing old fashioned things like waving hand held bats to send trains off when very clearly all of that could have been replaced by more modern technology. They do use a button the wall at some other stations such as Gatwick Airport.

Just to add to this: the footfall of those 4 stations combined (pre-pandemic) was about 250,000. Horsham alone was 10x that. Staff are placed where the majority of the footfall is which I hope you can agree is sensible.

With the "button" you are talking about those are CD/RA buttons. This is just a different way of doing the same thing that "waving a handheld bat" does, but is obviously a low-tech option. Adding the equipment is of course an additional cost which will be part of a cost-benefit analysis.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Top