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New report demonstrates UK high streets can benefit from improved links to train stations

5 November 2013
Town centres and high streets across the UK could benefit economically by improving the arrival experience of people visiting by train, according to a new report from Campaign for Better Transport.

The report explores a concept called ‘Fixing the Link’, which has been developed by Dutch train operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS). The concept has its roots in behavioural research which shows that people will stay longer, spend more money and be more likely to return if there is a welcoming and attractive walking route from the station to the town centre.

The ‘Fixing the Link’ methodology has now been brought to the UK by Abellio, the European subsidiary of NS. Pilot schemes have been launched in partnership with local authorities in Ely, Ipswich and Colchester on Abellio’s Greater Anglia franchise. The Campaign for Better Transport report examines those pilot schemes and considers how the principles they establish might be implemented more widely in the UK.

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: “In the past, the importance of stations as gateways to the towns they serve has been undervalued by both the rail industry and local authorities. This report tries to put that right using the Dutch methodology, but with recommendations adapted to the UK system. There is still a tendency to focus new development around the car, but this report shows that access to towns by rail is just as important and that it’s the quality of the pedestrian environment that matters.”

Jeff Hoogesteger, chief executive of Abellio, said: “The challenge we face as an industry is to ensure that we understand the changing expectations of society, and that we continually explore opportunities to innovate and deliver on those expectations. This publication introduces Fixing the Link which, I believe, achieves just that by enhancing the contribution that train companies can make to the economic prosperity of local town centres and high streets. I already anticipate it becoming a core planning tool for Abellio’s businesses.”

The report found that quite small things, like better signing, can make a big difference, but also calls for more far-reaching changes, like pedestrian priority at crossings and better and less car-based development along the station to town centre route.

The report makes a number of recommendations:


  • Proper planning for the area around stations, with masterplans by local authorities guiding development and Station Travel Plans drawn up to make pedestrian access to stations easier
  • New Local Enterprise Partnerships to recognise the importance of rail stations as gateways and seek funds from the Government’s Local Growth Fund to upgrade the links between stations and town centres, and to promote high quality development around them
  • The Government’s Planning Practice Guidance should recognise the importance of station links and promote good urban design and improvements to these links
  • Rail franchises and local rail strategies should include measures to improve the area around stations

Working with the results of the pilot schemes, Abellio plans to apply the methodology used in the report more widely to its rail franchises.



Notes to Editors

1. Fixing the Link is available here.

2. Station to town centre accessibility was assessed according to four criteria: liveliness, human scale, legibility and safety and comfort.

3. Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).

4. Abellio is the international passenger transport subsidiary of the Dutch national railway company, Nederlandse Spoorwegen. We deliver rail and bus services to over one million customers every day across the UK, Germany and the Netherlands. In the UK Abellio operates the rail companies Merseyrail*, Northern Rail*, Greater Anglia and the bus company Abellio London & Surrey. Abellio’s business approach is built on a philosophy of working in close partnership with clients and all other stakeholders with the aim of delivering services that will contribute to improvement of the lives of those in the communities we serve. Developing a culture of excellence in customer service and serving the door-to-door journey are the highest priorities for the management teams in every Abellio company. For more information visit www.abellio.com.

*In a 50:50 joint venture with Serco