Railway ticket office staff to be moved onto station platforms as kiosks shut

railway platform
railway platform

Ticket office staff will be forced to roam railway station platforms as kiosks up and down the country are closed, the rail minister has indicated.

In remarks that shed fresh light on the Government’s plans to scrap ticket offices, Kevin Foster said ministers want to “move staff from behind the ticket office screens”.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the Transport Secretary, has come under pressure to explain her plans for railway station ticket offices following claims by union leaders that officials were preparing to shut every office in a cost-cutting exercise.

Industry sources say shutting ticket offices would save taxpayers around £500m-a-year.

Ms Trevelyan responded by telling the Conservative party conference that they would not be scrapped completely.

The Sunday Telegraph reported last month that roughly four in five ticket offices are facing the axe under Government proposals.

Mr Foster, Conservative MP for Torquay and Paignton, is responsible for Britain’s railways, including the building of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail – a £43bn scheme to upgrade train services in the north.

Ian Mearns, Labour MP for Gateshead, submitted a parliamentary question on the Government’s plans to shut railway station ticket offices across the country, following the Telegraph report in September.

The rail minister said in response: “We want to move staff from behind the ticket office screens to more visible and accessible roles around stations which better support customers and train operating companies have set out early proposals for station retail reform.”

Shutting railway station ticket offices is part of the Department for Transport’s “Industry Change Programmes” originally developed under Ms Trevelyan’s predecessor, Grant Shapps.

Britain’s railways continue to be a significant drain on the public finances after taxpayers spent more than £16bn propping up services during the pandemic.

This newspaper disclosed last weekend that industry officials believe 97pc of travellers are back on the rails compared with 2019. But they are travelling less frequently and less during peak hours. This has left a £2bn hole in industry budgets – which falls on taxpayers to pay following the cancellation of franchising in May 2021.

Axing the lion’s share of ticket offices is expected to lead to job losses, but, in line with Mr Foster’s comments, the focus will be moving the staff onto the platforms and station concourse rather than reducing headcount, industry sources said.

Ticket office use has fallen from 34pc of transactions in 2012/13 to 12pc in 2021/22, according to government figures. The London Underground took the decision to shut its ticket offices several years ago. Although there was outcry at the time, Londoners have adapted to the changes subsequently.

Nevertheless, ticket office closures risk a backlash from Conservative MPs in rural constituencies.

Forcing through the changes also threatens to further inflame tensions with trade unions, which are staging the biggest wave of industrial action on the railways for a generation.

Published by anthonyhayble

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