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North Staffordshire Community Rail Partnership (NSCRP) has carried out a passenger survey and count on East Midlands Trains' Crewe-Derby service (the North Staffordshire Line).
The project, which was carried out on all trains on Tuesday 16 April by volunteers (including station adopters) from the NSCRP and the North Staffordshire Rail Promotion Group, was arranged to find out passenger footfall on the service and to seek passengers' views on how the quality of their journey could be improved.
Calling points on the service are Crewe, Alsager, Kidsgrove, Longport, Stoke-on-Trent, Longton, Blythe Bridge, Uttoxeter, Tutbury & Hatton, Peartree and Derby.
Michael Willmot, Chairman of the NSCRP, said: "Passenger growth on the Crewe-Derby route has been just over 16% in recent years. With the support of East Midlands Trains, our aim with this project was to get a picture of passenger footfall and train loadings on a typical weekday and also to gather passengers' views on the service to see where we can work with the train operator to make improvements."
The number of passengers counted on the day showed that passenger numbers are still increasing, with a projection of almost 670,000 passenger journeys on the service each year.
The largest passenger segment is commuters and those travelling for business (41% of respondents). 20% use the service for leisure/tourism and 13% for access to education.
Feedback gained through the survey showed there is generally a high level of satisfaction with the service among passengers, with improved punctuality and reliability being acknowledged. The train crew were also complimented by a number of passengers for their friendliness and helpfulness.
However, 33% of the 302 passengers who responded (which correlates with the number of regular travellers) said that the most urgent need is increased rolling stock capacity, especially at peak times before 0900 and after 1600. At these times the single car unit, which is provided for the majority of the day, is usually well over capacity.Passengers responded that Friday is a particularly busy day and some admitted to using their cars on that day to avoid the overloading.
More luggage capacity is highlighted as a further need, which again could be helped by the introduction of a two-car service.
Passengers' next most wished-for improvement is the re-introduction of the service running direct to Nottingham. This direct service was discontinued in 2005 because of capacity restrictions at Nottingham station.
Michael Willmot concluded: "With the Nottingham station re-signalling and re-modelling project happening this year providing some capacity increase, this should be the opportunity for the direct Crewe-Derby-Nottingham service to be reinstated.
"As a result of this survey, we will be working with East Midlands Trains to see when this can be achieved and also to find ways of increasing rolling stock capacity to better meet the needs of the predominantly daily commuter passenger who uses the service."
Neil Micklethwaite, Customer Service and Commercial Director for East Midlands Trains, said: "This is a valuable piece of research and we would like to thank the North Staffordshire Community Rail Partnership and the volunteers for their work in pulling it together.
"We are always looking for feedback on ways we can enhance our services for passengers and this research will help us to focus on some of the areas that need to be improved. We look forward to working with our partners in North Staffordshire to look at possible future improvements.
"We do recognise that a number of our routes, including the Crewe-Derby line, do have services that are exceptionally busy and we have worked hard to increase capacity where we can, for example on the 1642 from Derby on Fridays. We do however, have a finite number of trains and have to balance the needs of all of our customers, across all of our routes. This being said, we are excited about continuing to work with the Partnership to find ways to make sure we improve customers' experiences on our services."