East Midlands Trains | Frustration at Derby Station

I travel to London a lot. The only way to go is by train really and I make the trip 1-2 times a week typically. The service is average at best with a mix of new/ old trains and weak/ slow WiFi connectivity (which is over priced), to name just two frustrations with the service. A standard open return ticket to London is £185.50. You can fly to Europe for that! Interestingly the equivalent ticket to Manchester (which is also a similar journey time) is £55.20.

I park at Derby station (well try to). Rather than a proper multi-storey (like Nottingham and other Cities) Derby’s car parking offer is fragmented into three surface car parks. The main one on Railway Terrace serves multiple functions; it’s a general customer car park, a short stay drop off, parking for the Police, disabled parking and first class parking. The daily charge is £14. There are two other car parks I could use, but one is on Pride Park and the other is behind the Post Office (which I’d rather not leave my car in, especially overnight, due to security concerns).

Most of the parking bays are marked out, although some are vague and some old ones have been partially removed, but are still visible. When the car park is full, the entry barrier continues to allow cars in (as that’s the drop off circuit). There’s no indication that the spaces have run out, other than driving around. Furthermore the signage advising that 30mins entry/ exit is free, is not clear. I assumed that once I was in, I’d be required to pay £14, or some portion of it, if I then exited to park elsewhere. I suspect others are the same.

Because of the unconventional layout, there are areas outside of bays where you could feasibly park without disturbing other vehicles and there’s nothing to discourage you from doing it. It seems that a lot of people use these areas, as did I one day when running late to catch a train.

When I returned I found a parking notice for £70 on my windscreen. My offence was stated as “Causing an obstruction” and “Failing to park correctly within a marked bay”.

There is a single sign which states the regulations for parking, this is by the entry barrier in small font; not exactly an ideal place to be able to read it, either in a car or on foot. The entry into the car park is badly designed/ dangerous too!

Accepting I wasn’t in a marked bay, I had actually parked with some consideration to other vehicles and know for a fact that I wasn’t causing an obstruction on the one-way road. I disputed the charges and also pointed out the inadequate signage, poor use of the entry system and photos of four other vehicles parked ‘illegally’ but without parking notices. One of which was a Police van, which is located there daily!

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My appeal was rejected (twice) and I was advised that other vehicles/ cases could not be discussed due to “Data Protection” (that classic catch all). I wasn’t asking for names and addresses of people! I was simply pointing out a blatant inconsistency in how they manage their policies.

The very next day I parked in the same car park. The photo below is how I found my car when I returned. The white car is clearly completely obstructing my black car in the middle. However there is no parking notice and in fact all three cars are parked in marked bays (although the white car is in an old bay which has been poorly removed).

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Whilst in dialogue with the Appeals Department, I pointed out that my return train on the day of my parking offence was delayed by 34 minutes (there’s that average service again). As stated on the website I am eligible to claim 50% of my journey cost back as I was delayed, this would be £46. I therefore suggested that my parking fine (which is reduced to £35 if paid within 14 days) could be dropped and I wouldn’t pursue a claim for the delayed train (which incidentally I’ve never claimed for previously). That wasn’t an option for them. I’ve now paid my fine and have made a claim for a part-refund of my delayed journey. I will be doing this in all future delay occurrences as well.

I’m not suggesting for a minute that I’m completely innocent here, I accept I didn’t park in a bay. But I do feel aggrieved by my experience of this episode, which has been poor to say the least! The policies East Midlands trains have imposed are badly managed and poorly communicated to customers. Surely better signage and perhaps a warning notice on my car could have been an option before prosecuting me (as I genuinely didn’t know I’d be causing an offence). Why are there no yellow lines on the roads? That would make it much clearer.

My final point is this; why are the Police permitted to blatantly ignore the parking regulations and consistently park in the marked ‘Drop off’ bay and partially on the pedestrian footpath, causing an obstruction to vehicles and compromising safety of pedestrians? If they need easy access to their vehicles, for genuine emergency activity, then they should have clearly marked adequate spaces.

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East Midlands trains, I think you you need to urgently review your parking strategy in Derby and significantly improve how you communicate to your valued (?) customers…

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Formula One; They think it’s all over…

It’s been quite a year in F1 with probably good and bad points in equal measures. The year started with much quieter engines which drew criticism about the ‘spirit’ of the sport being lost. However, some of the racing this year has been pretty good.

One team and two drivers have clearly dominated; the Mercedes Benz with Lewis and Nico behind the wheel. The drivers championship could go right to the wire and either driver could win thanks to double points at Abu Dhabi. That could result in a messy end to the season if Nico snatches the title from Lewis. My money is on Lewis.

MERCEDES F1 2014

Its been good to see Vettel lose his dominance in the Red Bull – and even better to see Daniel Ricciado do so well. I’d actually say Ricciardo has been my favorite driver this season.

It’s a shame Jenson Button has struggled this year with a poor car. I still believe he’s one of the best drivers on the grid and it would be a great shame if he didn’t get a seat next year.

My top team this year, despite my long-standing allegiance to McLaren, is actually Williams. They have done an incredible job in returning to competitive form in F1, on a much lower budget than the others!

McLaren and Ferrari have had a woeful year. For two teams who have been in F1 for so long to get it so wrong seems odd, especially as they have big budgets as well.

The recent departure of both Marrussia and Caterham from F1 has brought to light some serious questions of Bernie Ecclestone (again!) For two teams encouraged to enter F1 with financial support, to then go into administration because the support hasn’t been delivered on is wrong. The balance of funding in F1 is unbelievable.

There’s a really interesting article by Andrew Benson at the BBC on how F1 funding works, what budgets the teams have and how much the drivers earn (or contribute) – click here to see it

Formula one generates an annual income of £1.1bn. 63% of that goes back to the teams. However the way the money is distributed is crazy and supports the dominance of Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes and McLaren.  Other teams such as Force India, Williams etc. get much less. Top teams have a racing budget of £250m, they then have separate budgets for things like marketing and hospitality. Smaller teams like Marrussia race on £70m.

I think most people would agree that the racing is what it’s all about in terms of fan support; the strength of the drivers and the teams working together to a generate subtle competitive edge. If so much is influenced by money ‘off the track’ – and the bias of that is firmly placed towards certain selected teams, then surely to some extent the sport ‘on track’ has no real integrity?

So as F1 this season nears a potentially dramatic conclusion, more controversy seems to hang over the sport and question whether its sustainable in the way it’s currently led? Will 2014 be Lewis’s 2nd title year? What will emerge in 2015 to make sure the sport remains engaging and successful?

Mercedes Benz