We spent an evening at Paragon Station to find out…

we-spent-an-evening-at-paragon-station-to-find-out…

We spent an evening at Paragon Station to find out…

We spent an evening at Paragon Station to find out how safe and welcoming it feels
2021-11-13 13:21:00
Visit Hull's Paragon Interchange at 5.30pm and it is a hive of bustling activity with shops and cafes full of customers. But an hour later and the whole station takes on a different, more intimidating atmosphere. Suddenly, travellers thin out, shops shut and a menacing silence descends. For the latest traffic and travel news, click here. Anyone alone and feeling vulnerable will start looking over their shoulder and you will want to hurry through to get your train or bus. Issues of crime and antisocial behaviour have plagued the interchange for a few years but recently, it was in the running for an award. After lockdowns and restrictions due to the pandemic, life is almost back to normal so reporter James Campbell spent a couple of hours at the station to find out whether it comes across as award winning or a hive of antisocial behaviour. An evening spent at the Paragon Interchange in Hull Melting pot Paragon Station is a familiar sight to many in Hull and I'm no different, often getting the train to other areas of the UK. Indeed, I embarked on a similar feature two years ago, when issues around crime and antisocial behaviour were at their peak in the summer of 2019. Like any city station, Paragon is a melting pot of different people, from clock-watching businessmen to groups of teens, all coming together briefly as they head to various destinations. Is Hull Paragon Interchange award-winning or a crime hot spot? It is the first sight that greets many of Hull’s visitors but Paragon Station has had a chequered recent past. Crime, antisocial behaviour and smelly toilets have plagued the interchange in recent years which means the first impression of many visitors have not been great. Two years ago station owners TransPennine courted controversy when they closed the Anlaby Road entrance in a bid to curb the antisocial behaviour. The gate was closed for two months as part of a trial in a bid to cut down on “antisocial incidents” but the sudden closure angered many residents, with a huge petition gaining more than 23,000 signatures against the move. Prior to that, they even piped in classical music to try and tackle the issue. Earlier this year even TransPennine Express customer experience manager Kathryn O'Brien claimed the interchange stands out in the network for its levels of antisocial behaviour. She responded after a meeting with Hull MPs Diana Johnson and Emma Hardy in May about the situation. She said: “There has been huge investment gone into this station of over a million pounds went into the station including an upgrade of the toilets.” “Frankly they are a really difficult asset to manage, we've got a dedicated toilet attendant – who would want that job? Those individuals have to close the toilets while they clean them because of the levels of abuse they receive whilst being in there. “More can be done but we have to tackle the wider issue here. It is hugely standout for our business, I manage 18 other stations and we do not see the same levels of issues that we face in Hull. “We work very closely with the British Transport Police and we have our own dedicated security teams at the station and they've been subject to some horrendous assaults, both verbal and physical and continue to face those daily challenges. “It is very standout in terms of crime and that is why we need to come together to tackle the issues.” But last month the station was shortlisted as one of the best train stations in the UK. The station was nominated in the 'Culture' category of the award as part of a competition organised by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) branded the ‘World Cup of stations’. Over 1,200 nominations for 250 stations were initially received and these were gradually whittled down. Alongside Hull in the culture category were Coventry, Norwich and Oxford stations. Hull made it through to the semi-finals but just missed out on the award which went to Stourbridge Junction. Inevitably there will be issues, but some stations appear safer and more welcoming than others. I arrived at around 5.30pm to catch the busiest period when commuters are heading home. Paragon Interchange combines both train travellers and those catching the bus so it can get pretty busy. Gloomy lighting It was getting dark outside by this point but the station was not intimidating. However, the lighting is very low in many parts of the interchange, particularly at the entrances, and does not provide the most inviting of atmospheres. Since the pandemic hit, cleaning regimes across the board seemed to have been stepped up and the station is no different. It certainly seems cleaner that it did pre-Covid. An evening spent at the Paragon Interchange in Hull On my arrival the toilets were closed. I feared the worst initially, thinking vandals had damaged them. But they were only closed as part of this beefed up cleaning system and opened 20 minutes later. There was a lot of hustle and bustle around the bus station area but it was a lot quieter heading towards the train platforms. Considering the history of antisocial behaviour, it was a while before I saw any security staff – or security ambassadors as they have been branded – but it was pretty busy so they could have been missed. An evening spent at the Paragon Interchange in Hull Safety concerns remain There are certainly still issues with crime and safety at the interchange. Last month Sophia Waterfield, who was one of the organisers of a Hull vigil showing support to murdered women by men and the safety of women on our streets, was walking back from the event when she was harassed. She said the man in his 30s approached her at the interchange and then followed her into a bakery before security was called to escort her safely to her bus. Radio Humberside presenter Andy White has also raised concerns recently about groups of teenagers hanging round and being antisocial. Early on, I came across no issues. Everyone seemed focused simply on getting home with just the odd group of younger people hanging around but causing no problems. An evening spent at the Paragon Interchange in Hull Everything shuts by 6pm Okay, Hull is smaller than Leeds or Manchester but it is very noticeable how little there is on offer in terms of shops and places to eat within the interchange. That maybe be partly down to having St Stephen’s just across the road but it still seems a woefully poor offer. What was worse, by 6pm everything closed – that includes both the Starbucks and Costa coffee cafes. Suddenly, seeing lights switch off and shutters fall made the whole area more foreboding. It also left people with little to do while they waited for their bus or train. Only Greggs down at the bus station seemed to still be open. An evening spent at the Paragon Interchange in Hull Becoming sinister Once the commuters begin to thin, the station does become a little more sinister. Aesthetically, the station is rather beautiful with its whalebone structure but it lacks vitality. There are still empty units bookended by Starbucks and Costa which were built four years ago. TransPennine says it has worked hard to fill them but it really isn’t a good loo

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