In a huge upheaval to the railway industry, nearly 1,000 stations in England will lose their ticket offices. The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) has published closure proposals which have government approval.
In East Anglia, most stations are affected, so Greater Anglia have published a link for a public consultation for passengers to have their say. The original deadline was extended, but the consultaiton now closes on 1st September.
What is planned and why?
Greater Anglia proposes alterations to ‘the way tickets are sold and customer service is provided’. All 54 stations which still have ticket offices would change to ‘the new model of retailing’.
There would still be staff working as ‘customer hosts’ outside ticket offices to help passengers with information and ticketing queries. The company says that no station would become completely unstaffed, although many would have changes to hours.
Train companies say that only 12% of tickets are now bought at ticket offices and that this number has fallen over the last decade. The industry is also under pressure from government to make economies after the decline in revenues due to the pandemic.
Changes at East Anglian stations
Greater Anglia details individual proposals for each station they run. Even large stations, such as Liverpool Street, Norwich, Colchester, Ipswich, Chelmsford, Cambridge and Stansted Airport, would lose their ticket offices, to be replaced by Customer Information Centres.
Other busy stations, such as Shenfield, Southend and Bishop’s Stortford, would have neither a ticket office nor a Customer Information Centre, but would still be staffed some of the time.
At many stations, staff would be on site for fewer hours. As examples, on weekdays:
- Lowestoft staffing would cease at 1.30pm rather than 5.05pm.
- At Diss, staff are currently available till 10.15pm, but this would be curtailed to 7.25pm.
- Cambridge staff would go home two hours earlier.
- Wivenhoe would lose over seven hours of staffing daily from Monday to Saturday.
- On Sundays Great Yarmouth ticket office which is currently staffed from 8am till 4pm, will have only ‘regular visits by a mobile team’.
The plans for your local station can be seen here.
Who is concerned and why?
Many people are worried about whether those with additional needs will be able to use trains.
The Royal National Institute for the Blind says this is ‘another barrier to train travel faced by blind and partially sighted passengers’, of whom 58% find it impossible to use vending machines. One partially sighted informant says that the glare on the screens can be so bad she often buys the wrong ticket because she cannot see text, and she can ill afford to do this. And then there is no one there to help her.
Disability campaigners say that the move to fewer staff hours will have a huge impact on disabled passengers’ ability to travel. They believe legal action is almost certain.
Chris Vince, Harlow’s Labour group leader, feels that ‘Conservatives … fail to understand the value customers place on human interaction.’
Rail unions are angry
The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association opposes the closures and accuses rail bosses of ‘trying to bring in redundancies by stealth’.
A campaign of resistance will be mounted by the National Union of Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers, who say that statutory redundancy notices will be issued for many railway workers.
Have your say
While this move may save money, some believe that it is not inclusive. Travellers will have to use apps or machines for tickets, and remote mobile teams for assistance, rather than trained staff on site. This could be off-putting for those who can’t read or use ICT, and elderly or disabled passengers. Revenue could actually decrease if people are less confident to travel on trains.
The consultation is only open until 1st September. If you want to make your views known about ticket offices, follow this link.