Letter of the week: Sunderland railway station has no sense of ownership

Our writer laments the state of Sunderland railway station.
Our writer laments the state of Sunderland railway station.

The ‘improvements’ at Sunderland station for the Tall Ships event consisted of a coat of paint in the concourse, new exterior signs with the logos of the four organisations involved with the building and sailing ship vinyl logos on the platform.

No attempt was made to improve the failing passenger facilities.

Three weeks after the Tall Ships, both arrival and departure indicators are out of action (one has not been working for 10 years) and the country’s most unreliable escalator is out of use again.

The problem about the station is that no organisation has any sense of ownership.

The building is owned by Network Rail who, while it has funded improvements at many stations, refused to provide their previously promised share of upgrading at Sunderland.

Northern Rail, a subsidiary of Arriva, whose headquarters are at Doxford Park, manages the station.

Of course, Northern Rail only operate one train an hour each way through Sunderland and appear to have limited interest in the station, apart from the income it receives from the Travel Centre.

Nevertheless, you would have expected Arriva to have more concern about the building’s maintenance as they also own Grand Central whose terminus is at Sunderland.

The majority of trains through Sunderland are the five Metro services an hour operated by Nexus.

Also read: Redevelopment of Sunderland railway station could start in 2019
Nexus pay for the use of station and funded the last upgrade of the platform area.

Surprisingly, it has no contractual relationship which would provide a guarantee of facilities for their passengers.

This was admitted in a letter to me by the last Director General of Nexus in 2014. He also said that Nexus would seek to manage the station, which would make perfect sense as Metro is the major user.

There is no indication, however, that this was done when the Northern Rail franchise was being let.

I am sure all the organisations involved will merely point to the hoped-for improvements to the concourse (first planned in 2012).

Even if these do happen, there must be real concern, on the basis of the record of Nexus, that it and Sunderland Council will pour millions of pounds of public money into the project, but will fail to ensure an adequate maintenance regime for the station, which its users are entitled to expect.

Neil Sinclair

Recent Letter of the week: Sunderland should be proud of its Tall Ships Races