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A Man of Few Words - by Swan Morrison

The Waiting Game

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a very great honour to address this annual meeting of Rail-network Station Managers. And I am proud to receive, on behalf of myself and my staff, the award of British Rail-network Station of the Year.

The services that led to this award were not, of course, developed overnight. Ten years ago, my station was simply, as many others, a location at which people boarded and alighted from trains. We were, however, one of the first stations to recognise the increasing need for digital information boards and tannoy systems so that passengers were instantly appraised of the cancellation of some trains and the periods that others would be delayed. We were subsequently one of the first to provide tele-visual and audio information about other trains which had derailed, collided, crashed, exploded, or simply disappeared, without explanation, between stations.

It soon became apparent, however, that even this was insufficient to meet our customer’s needs. We thus converted part of the station premises into restaurants in which passengers could enjoy meals while they waited. Those who arrived at the station two or three minutes before the scheduled arrival of their train were most appreciative of the cinemas on site where they could view several full length features prior to boarding.

Our next project was the museum complex in which visitors could see trains at first hand and enjoy an audio-visual experience of railway travel. This was found to be of particular value to those of a nervous disposition who might otherwise have been alarmed by the unexpected arrival of a real train due to their unfamiliarity with such a conveyance.

As trains became less frequent, the distraction of the restaurants, cinemas, casinos, swimming pool and sports facilities were less able to address passenger concerns. Surveys showed that many of our customers still harboured aspirations to get to work. We therefore developed office facilities with Internet connection in order to allow passengers to conduct their business. We, further, built hotel accommodation for those who choose to either work late or partake of the station nightlife. The unplanned evolution of platform eight into a ‘red light district’ remains, of course, controversial as does the transport police ‘no-go’ area around the crack dens on platform ten.

The development of residential suburbs around the station both reflected the success of our venture in respect of its self-sufficiency and also the total collapse of the national train service. It was particularly heartening to win an English Village Garden of the Year Award after the filling of the spaces between platforms with earth, and the planting of those areas.

Our success, of course, brought its own difficulties as those in the further reaches of the suburbs found it increasingly difficult to get to the station. This problem was overcome, however, with the opening of the new rail link that also connects with the station’s hypermarket and airport. This has certainly contributed to the status of our station as a major international holiday destination.

Thank you.