Ticket Office Closures: We say ‘No!’

Busy ticket office at Bristol Temple Meads, July 2023

Bristol Rail Campaign Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways objects strongly to proposals for Ticket Office Closures, which are being imposed on train operators by the Department for Transport (DfT). These plans call for the closure of all railway station ticket offices in England over the next three years. We think these proposals are poorly timed, have unrealistic timescales, discriminate against disabled people, and fail to guarantee service levels.

We recognise that reform of ticket offices is needed. There has been a major shift in the way many train tickets are purchased, with increasing numbers being bought online. But a significant number are still bought at ticket offices. The photograph above was taken today, at the busy ticket office at Bristol Temple Meads. Ticket office closures could deter people from getting back on the train just as passenger figures are recovering from the impact of COVID.

Poorly timed

Rail fares in the UK need to be simplified. For many would-be passengers this is a significant barrier to travelling by train. Ticket Vending Machines (TVM) often fail to offer the best tickets for a journey, whereas ticket offices are staffed by specialists who understand the fares system and give passengers confidence that they are getting best value for money.

Under these proposals we believe this expertise will become diluted as experienced ticket sales specialists are replaced by multi-tasked agency staff.

Reform of ticket offices should be delayed until the fares system has been simplified to the extent that most people can buy the ticket they need without the need for specialist advice.

Rail workers have been in dispute with their employers for over a year. This dispute is damaging the industry and the economy, and resolving it should be an urgent priority.

Introducing changes to the terms and conditions of a group of railway workers at this stage of a dispute seems likely to prolong it. This is no-one’s interest.

Unrealistic Timescales

This would be a significant change, and yet GWR proposes to start closing ticket offices within eight weeks of the consultation finishing. This seems like far too little time to consider objections and alternatives.

There will be many details to work out. Every station is different. Not all ticket types are currently available from ticket vending machines, or online. Some lessons will have been learnt from the recent closure of ticket offices on the London Underground, but this is a metro system with a very simple fares structure. The national railway network is far more complex and varied.

We are concerned that these proposals are poorly thought out and are being rushed through by the DfT as a cost-saving measure which will damage staff relations and the passenger experience.

Disabled access

For many vulnerable and disabled people, including ageing people and those with learning disabilities, the ticket office is the only accessible place to buy their tickets.

In larger stations a customer service desk may perform a similar role. At smaller stations where there are fewer staff, proposals to move them out of the ticket office and onto the platforms where they are ‘more visible’ may seem attractive – until you consider passengers with visual impairment. And passengers with restricted mobility may find it difficult to get to staff who are moving around the station, assuming they can find them.

Improved accessibility for disabled people needs to be front and centre of any reform. We think these proposals will make it harder for disabled people to buy tickets. For that reason alone they should be rejected out of hand.

Service level

The Ticketing and Settlement Agreement requires that Train Operating Companies employ sufficient staff to provide “suitable and efficient” customer service. It is our understanding that these changes may be accompanied by a significant reduction in staffing levels.

We would like to see more detail of how the existing level of service can be maintained while using fewer staff.

Ticket Vending Machines at Bristol Temple Meads, July 2023. Bristol Rail Campaign FoSBR opposes plans to close ticket offices.
Ticket Vending Machines at Bristol Temple Meads do not appear popular, in stark contract to the Ticket Office (main picture) seen at the same time.

Ticket Vending Machines are unreliable. Often they do not offer the full range of tickets, and often they do not promote the best value tickets.

Existing Ticket Vending Machines are not currently good enough to act as a substitute for Ticket Office staff.

Have your say!

FoSBR has submitted a response on behalf of our Bristol Rail Campaign.

We urge everyone to respond to this consultation, which is being coordinated by Transport Focus. If your local station has no ticket office, consider the impact of losing these facilities at your nearest station that does have one. You may also wish to sign a petition opposing these changes at change.org.






One response to “Ticket Office Closures: We say ‘No!’”

  1. David Batstone avatar
    David Batstone

    Ticket office staff are clerical officers. Platform staff are conciliation staff. Two totally different pay grades and entrance requirements. The unions are going to have a field day if they start shifting staff around.

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