Tuesday 23 April 2024
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Rail: Ticket offices closures scrapped after record complaints

Plans to close hundreds of train ticket offices in England have been scrapped.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the government had asked train operators to withdraw their proposals because they failed to meet high passenger standards.

However, a source told the BBC rail bosses were “furious”, saying the original plans had been approved by the Department for Transport.

The proposals raised serious concerns from unions and disability groups.

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The plans were put forward by the rail operators as a move to save money, after coming under pressure from the government to cut costs after being supported heavily during the Covid pandemic.

Train companies said that only 12% of tickets were now bought at station kiosks.

Transport Focus and London Travelwatch objected to the proposals, saying they had received 750,000 responses from individuals and organisations in a public consultation.

Councillor David Mellen, leader of the city council said before the consultation ended:

‘As a result of the discussion, I will now write to both the Secretary of State for Transport and East Midlands Railway on behalf of the council to formally express our opposition.

‘The Department for Transport and the 13 train-operating companies it manages have announced plans to shut almost all staffed ticket offices in England, totalling nearly a thousand.

‘This follows changes to Government guidance relating to ticket office opening hours and operation, with a two-month consultation closing at the start of September.

‘We believe that ticket offices provide a vital service to residents in Nottingham and support passenger safety, security and accessibility.

Nottingham Station ticket office
© westbridgfordwire.com
Nottingham Station ticket office

‘Having a central place in the station for people requiring advice and assistance provides certainty and confidence for customers who may struggle to otherwise locate station staff, and also acts as a point of safety for passengers.

‘It’s important to remember that not everyone is able to use ticket machines or online platforms. Many journeys require support to ensure customers buy the most appropriate and cheapest tickets, and don’t incur penalties.

‘Ticket office staff have a wealth of knowledge and we mustn’t lose that.’

East Midlands Railway’s position was:

‘In line with other train operators, we are supporting the modernisation of the industry so we can adapt to our customers’ changing travel patterns.

The ticket office consultation has now closed. Independent passenger watchdogs Transport Focus and London Travelwatch are collating the responses on behalf of the industry and will provide a response to the Rail Industry. We will work with the Watchdogs to listen and understand the feedback so that we can finalise our proposals that creates a sustainable railway for the future. We will post the outcome of the consultation on this page at the appropriate time.

The proposals aim to bring station retailing up to date from the mid-1990s, when the rules on how to sell tickets were set. Back then, over 80% of all tickets were sold at ticket offices. Today, with the shift to online sales and smartphones, just 12% of rail tickets are sold through ticket offices.

Due to the dramatic change in customer behaviour fewer colleagues are needed to be based in ticket offices to sell tickets. Instead, there will be a greater proportion of colleagues on station concourses across the network to help ensure that customers continue to get the very best travel and ticket advice, support customers with accessibility needs, and help customers board and alight from trains. Enabling us to have staff in the right locations at the right time.

These proposed changes are aimed to bring railway staff closer to customers, better match demand with resources, and ensure long term sustainability for the railway.’

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