Named: the best railway stations in Britain

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The Independent Online
GRANTHAM'S GREATEST claim to fame may be as the childhood home of Baroness Thatcher, but yesterday the Lincolnshire town won new fame as home to Britain's best railway station.

The town came out top of a list of nominations from railway passengers, train companies, rail watchdogs and employees of Railtrack, which organised the competition.

Railtrack said the competition, which used to be run by British Rail, concentrated on appearance, to facilities and staff "rather than window boxes and flowers".

"It is about how to give the customer the best possible service," a spokesman said.

Other winners included Aberdeen for "loveliest loos", Tile Hill in the West Midlands for "access for all", Reading for "stamping out crime", and Dolau in Powys for "community spirit". Colchester won a special award for "excellence in adversity", after staff managed to significantly reduce vandalism and crime.

However, the awards came against a background of mounting concern over cleanliness and security on the country's lesser used lines.

Complaints about station issues to the passenger watchdog, the Central Rail Users' Consultative Committee, rose 61 per cent in the year to June, with a total of 593 passengers writing in.

The main rises in complaints were about a lack of staff (343 per cent) and car parking space (150 per cent).

The London Regional Passenger Committee, the capital's watchdog, said that while train performance was of greatest concern to the public, stations were an area of major concern.

Christine Evans, the committee's assistant director, said: "The facilities at stations are an important part of the overall service. It is all very well to have swish new trains but there is no point if the environment is terrible."

Jonathan Bray, of the Save Our Railways campaign group, said there were "islands of excellence" but that there was no national plan to bring the network as a whole up to scratch. "We want to see stations open to all sections of the community, in terms of better security, access for people with disabilities and a better use of information technology," he said.

Railtrack said it was investing pounds 1bn over five years to regenerate most of the country's 2,500 stations.

Not all of the stations had received investment, Railtrack said, but all those built more than five years ago would. "We are not there yet but we are working very hard and hope all stations will be as beautiful as Grantham," said a spokeswoman yesterday.

Railtrack owns all stations but leases back nearly all of them to the train companies. While Railtrack has overall responsibility for general maintenance, cash for specific improvements is negotiated between the two bodies.

...But Is This The Worst?

As Railtrack did not create a category for Worst Station of the Year, The Independent is asking readers to nominate their least favourite station. A quick poll in the office named Kentish Town West on the North London line (pictured right) as particularly bad. One regular passenger described it as "sinister, smelly and like a concentration camp - certainly no place for a woman to go after dark". But there must be others. Please send your nominations, with reasons, to: P. Thornton, Worst Station Award, The Independent, 18th Floor, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL.

GRANTHAM

Margaret Thatcher's home town took the top prize as Railtrack Station of the Year because of its overall cleanliness and the friendliness of its staff - not just for the `pretty window-boxes' that used to win awards for stations

COLCHESTER

The Essex commuter station won its award in the category for improvement in the face of adversity in recognition of efforts by station staff to beat vandalism and crime

GLASGOW

One of the few stations to be both owned and operated by Railtrack rather than by the train operating company. It won the top prize in the category for Railtrack's own-operated stations

READING

The main Berkshire station on the Great Western high-speed line won a special award for efforts in

cutting down crime, using closed-circuit

television in passenger and parking areas

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