Rail companies have announced plans to shut down England’s ticket offices massively to ‘modernise’ the railway, intensifying the battle with unions and infuriating disabled and passenger groups.
The move, pushed by the government to cut costs, has been confirmed by industry body the Rail Delivery Group. Rail operators have told staff of proposals to close almost all of the remaining 1,007 offices, except the busiest stations, within three years. A decision denounced by the Greens who demand that the government leave the railway ticket offices open.
Responding to a consultation on the closures, Green Party transport spokesman Matt Edwards said: ‘Any decision to close station ticket offices would be another short-sighted decision from a government that does not care about the people who use public transport to get around.
The RDG said ticketing staff would move to platforms and station concourses in “new and engaging roles”. However, many fear job losses, with all guarantees offered on compulsory layoffs in wage negotiations due to expire at the end of next year.
Edwards, who is also leader of the Green Party group on Bradford Council, said: “Anyone who uses the train will know that the machines in our stations are unreliable and do not always specify which ticket is the cheapest to buy. It will also make it more difficult for people who have to pay for their tickets in cash.”
However, the industry says only 12% of tickets are now bought in offices, down from 82% in 1995, as movements continue to expand contactless payments and online shopping.
“Being able to speak to someone is vital for many passengers and the plans to close ticket offices will make train travel more difficult for thousands of passengers, especially passengers with disabilities, those with reduced mobility and parents traveling with children,” the Green Party transportation spokesperson said.
Rail operators remain in conflict with unions, but the government has pushed rail companies to press ahead with a controversial reform, with little progress in negotiations and more strikes to come. The RMT and TSSA unions said they would “strongly oppose” the proposals.
“Instead of another pointless fight with unions and passengers, the government should focus on delivering on-time service, managing overcrowding and making train travel more convenient and affordable. Closing the ticket offices will do none of that,” Matt Edwards advised the government.