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gate at palmers green stationNo way out. The newly installed gate at Palmers Green station is a serious impediment to anyone with a heavy load or who has difficulty climbing stairs

On the Sunday before last I arrived at Palmers Green station after a couple of weeks away.  I had with me a very heavy suitcase, but was easily able to pull it up the three small steps between Platform 2 and the car park and then wheel it home.  If I had returned one day later, I would have been in trouble, because the gate to the car park was well and truly closed off.  Having injured my back, I'm not supposed to lift heavy loads, but the only way out of the station would have been to carry the suitcase up the stairs to the booking office.

The following day (Monday 19th June) I again arrived on a northbound train, thankfully this time without a suitcase, but in the middle of the evening rush hour.  A very large number of people got off the train (the previous train had been cancelled "due to the unavailability of a member of staff", ie no driver) but the side gate was firmly closed and a hundred or more people had to make their way up the narrow staircase and through the confined space in the lobby, while other people were vainly attempting to get into the station.  It took about ten minutes from train to street, with people spilling out onto the narrow pavement.  Many of them then had to make their way down the even narrower pavement to the car park, adding an additional delay to that caused by the cancellation.

What can we do about the gate closure?

Complain to the railway company by emailing

Ask our councillors to contact the railway company:

  • Palmers Green ward:
  • Southgate Green ward:
  • Winchmore Hill ward

Potential health and safety incidents

Well, even Govia Great Northern seem to have realised that they had created a potential for health and safety incidents by forcing so many people to use the stairs and they have now started opening the side gate during the evening rush.  But at other times it is locked.

This has clearly been done to reduce fare evasion.  But it is a serious insult to the thousands of fare paying passengers who use the side gate in order to get to their cars or to avoid the crowded stairs and lobby. Even more importantly, it discriminates against people with heavy loads or who have difficulty climbing stairs.

Worst performing railway company in the UK

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), to use the full official designation, is officially the worst peforming railway company in the UK (see this report and notice that GTR is the only operator to have a separate section describing its inadequacies) .  A while back we had the prospect of a transfer of the Moorgate services to London Overground, renowned for its high standards of customer service, but this idea is now ruled out because the Mayor of London happens to be a member of the wrong political party.

It's bad enough that we have to put up with almost daily cancellations and a pathetic service at weekends and travel in scruffy trains with dirty windows.  But this latest change adds insult to injury.  It means that for many local people train travel will become less convenient;  more importantly, it discriminates against many passengers. I think we need to campaign to have the gate permanently open (or better still, completely removed).

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David Eden's Avatar
David Eden posted a reply #3054 29 Jun 2017 09:51
Almost daily cancellations? I catch the service once or twice or week and haven't had it more than a minute or so late for a while. Admittedly, when it does go wrong, it goes wrong very badly and I've had some extreme frustrations in the past mainly due to lack of info (minor delay turns into major delay turns into cancellation).

Regarding the gate, that's their perogative and reflective of the number of fare dodgers. When it used to be open people used to stream through without tapping. Maybe the compromise is a ticket barrier like there is upstairs?
Vicky Coombes's Avatar
Vicky Coombes posted a reply #3058 29 Jun 2017 10:39
Great Northern have now revised the gate policy and it will only be closed at certain times of the day. The policy of having to call in advance to book having the gate opened if you had a pushchair / wheel chair or problems using the stairs was just not practical. Even with the gate closed this was not preventing fare dodgers. On several occasions last week I witnessed numerous people climb onto a bench on platform 2 and them jump over the fence into the car park, thus avoiding the gate. It should also maybe noted that if people are leaving that exit without tapping out, it doesn't mean they're fare dodgers, not everyone uses oyster or contactless, there are still a lot of people who use paper tickets.
Basil Clarke's Avatar
Basil Clarke posted a reply #3060 29 Jun 2017 12:57

David Eden wrote: Regarding the gate, that's their prerogative and reflective of the number of fare dodgers. When it used to be open people used to stream through without tapping. Maybe the compromise is a ticket barrier like there is upstairs?


It's not their prerogative. If there had been no existing train service and Govia has set one up on their own initiative, then it would be their prerogative. However, there has been a service for over a hundred years which since 1948 has been provided as a public service. Since the rail companies were privatised, most of the services that they run are as the result of winning a tender. Govia won a contract to run the Great Northern service, but they are running it on behalf of the Department for Transport and thus on behalf of the public.

"People streaming through without tapping": not only is what Vicky says true, but also anyone with a travelcard on their oyster has no need to tap in or out unless they are outside their zones. The majority of daily commuters will be using a travelcard, not pay-as-you-go.

Re cancellations, I'm not saying that the trains that I want to catch are frequently cancelled, but there are often cancellations of other trains listed on the information boards or on the Internet.
David Eden's Avatar
David Eden posted a reply #3061 29 Jun 2017 15:29

Basil Clarke wrote:

David Eden wrote: Regarding the gate, that's their prerogative and reflective of the number of fare dodgers. When it used to be open people used to stream through without tapping. Maybe the compromise is a ticket barrier like there is upstairs?


It's not their prerogative. If there had been no existing train service and Govia has set one up on their own initiative, then it would be their prerogative. However, there has been a service for over a hundred years which since 1948 has been provided as a public service. Since the rail companies were privatised, most of the services that they run are as the result of winning a tender. Govia won a contract to run the Great Northern service, but they are running it on behalf of the Department for Transport and thus on behalf of the public.


What has any of that gumpf got to do with how a train operator chooses to manage its fare dodging issue?

I'm guessing they didn't go to the expense of installing that gate out of pure boredom. There will have had to be a business case, even if much of what Vicky says is pertinent.
Basil Clarke's Avatar
Basil Clarke posted a reply #3069 04 Jul 2017 14:50

David Eden wrote:

Basil Clarke wrote:

David Eden wrote: Regarding the gate, that's their prerogative and reflective of the number of fare dodgers. When it used to be open people used to stream through without tapping. Maybe the compromise is a ticket barrier like there is upstairs?


It's not their prerogative. If there had been no existing train service and Govia has set one up on their own initiative, then it would be their prerogative. However, there has been a service for over a hundred years which since 1948 has been provided as a public service. Since the rail companies were privatised, most of the services that they run are as the result of winning a tender. Govia won a contract to run the Great Northern service, but they are running it on behalf of the Department for Transport and thus on behalf of the public.


What has any of that gumpf got to do with how a train operator chooses to manage its fare dodging issue?

I'm guessing they didn't go to the expense of installing that gate out of pure boredom. There will have had to be a business case, even if much of what Vicky says is pertinent.


The purpose of the "gumpf", as you so kindly call it (just because you can't follow an argument, doesn't mean that it's rubbish), is to point out that Govia are not running a completely free-market commercial service. They are subsidised by the taxpayer to provide a public service and I doubt very much whether there is anything in the contract that allows them to reduce the service which they provide. By closing the gate to the car park they have greatly inconvenienced many passengers - particularly older people, people with disabilities, people with baby buggies, people with heavy suitcases.

I understand tha the GTR contract, of which Great Northern is a part, is unusual in that it is run on similar lines to the way that London Buses contracts are. That is to say the Department for Transport pays Govia a fixed amount and all the fare takings go to the DfT. See this explanation from Wikipedia:

The company was awarded the TSGN franchise in May 2014, under a new contract whereby the Department for Transport will pay GTR £8.9 billion over the seven years and receive all revenue.[1] It began operating services under the Thameslink and Great Northern brands in September 2014. Southern and Gatwick Express became part of GTR in July 2015, making it the largest rail franchise in terms of passengers, staff and fleet in the UK.[2][3]

The franchise has an unusual structure: it is a management contract where fare income does not go to GTR. Instead GTR is paid a fee for operating the service, and consequently the company carries less revenue risk. This form of franchise was chosen because of long-term engineering works anticipated around London, which would be a significant challenge to organise within the normal form of franchise.


So it's possible that the gate has been put in at the behest of the DfT, since it's the DfT who would be losing revenue. Whether or not that's the case, it's still unacceptable to introduce such a significant degree of inconvenience to many passengers.

You could argue that you can't get to Platform 1 without using stairs. That's obviously true, but bear in mind that it is more common for people going away eg on holiday to start by travelling towards London then changing eg at Highbury & Islington. They then can change step free at Kings Cross or Euston. It's easier to carry a suitcase downstairs than up. The alternative is to catch a bus to Southgate or Wood Green and take the Piccadilly line, since those stations don't have any steps, only escalators. However, this adds a lot of time to the journey.

By closing the gate Govia are forcing people with heavy loads to use the much slower Wood Green or Southgate route instead of the quick Palmers Green Station route. This amounts to a significant reduction in the service to the public and in my view is unacceptable.
David Eden's Avatar
David Eden posted a reply #3080 06 Jul 2017 11:51
Again, how the operator chooses to manages its fare dodging issue is irrespective of public subsidy status.

And the gate is now not permanently closed I understand. I'm sure those that 'suffer' going downstairs can cope with going up if PG is that much more convenient than the step-free alternatives.

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  • 11 June 2019

Govia 'passenger benefits': How about reliable train services?

Palmers Green is one of a long list of railway stations where money for improvements is being made available from Govia Thameslink Railway's passenger benefit fund, which has been set up to provide some sort of compensation to people whose journeys were severely disrupted by the chaotic introduction of new timetables in May 2018. Palmers Green station is in Tier 1 and £80,000 is being allocated. But are GTR yet capable of delivering the most important passenger benefit - a reliable train service? If not, is it high time that the Moorgate services were transferred to Transport for London? Read more