|Rail user groups do NOT represent rail users?
"How WRONG you are" I thought to myself as one of the attendees at the Rail Future National Conference last Saturday spoke about how hard it is to get young people onto trains ... and how incorrect he was to alledge that the generation after his won't leave the car at home. But looking around the room and seeing it dominated by ranks of older men, I could understand how he might have that impression.
I don't like to just think that someone may be wrong - I prefer to look at the evidence and be rather more thorough than just thinking it - for it could have been that HE was right and I was wrong. So I looked at the evidence of pictures I have taken of passengers as I have travelled around and I even took another picture as we left Ely the next day.
Evidence - to me - that the membership at the RailFuture National Meeting wasn't demographically typical. And that's not limited to just that meeting either - I can point to other meetings I have attended in Bradford-on-Avon and Westbury and Bristol and Taunton ... and tell you that there' too, the demographics seem to differ between Rail Users and Rail User Groups. Which means that the rail user groups don't truely represent the people they perport to. Goodness me - this is strong stuff and a dramatic conclusion indeed.
So - who DOES represent the rail passenger effectively? How about Customer panels? Passenger Focus? Campaign for better transport? Town and parish councils in areas served? Your MP's office? ... or how about "no-one does it properly"? Alas, I have no answer to this!
Interestingly, and embryonically, there are elements under which our forums - at "Save the Train" and the "First Great Western Coffeeshop" do represent passengers quite specifically. After the comments made in Ely, and seeing the different age metrics of the real users and the user groups, I took a quick poll on the "First Great Western" side and came up with the following age brackets:
Up to 20 - 22% of active members
aged 21 to 40 - 48%
aged 41 to 60 - 26%
aged 61 and over - 4%
Which strikes me a being a reasonable mix, age wise at least of the people you'll actually see on the services if you go doen to the station today ...
Written 2007-11-10 07:16:45
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