Almost every train station ticket office to close under plans to ‘modernise’ rail network
Plans to close nearly every railway station ticket office across England have been officially announced with the number of jobs cuts unknown.
Train companies across the country are launching passenger consultations to move staff from ticket offices and into stations, a move they say will offer more face-to-face support for customers across the network as a whole.
Industry body the Rail Delivery Group said the proposals would help bring station retailing up to date from the mid 90’s, when the rules on how to sell tickets were set and before the invention of the smartphone.
Back then, 82% of all tickets were sold at ticket offices, compared to 12% on average today, a downward trend which accelerated during the pandemic.
The consultation, which will last 21 days for passengers, could see the closure of a number of ticket offices across the network as staff move out from behind the glass.
It is being launched against the backdrop of long-running industrial action by rail unions RMT and ASLEF.
There are 1,007 stations in England run by train companies operating under contracts issued by the UK Government.
Posters are being displayed at the vast majority of these on Wednesday informing passengers about the potential closure of the ticket office.
Following a consultation, the Government will make the final decision on which offices will be axed.
It is not known how quickly the first sites will close, but the programme is expected to last for three years.
The plan has sparked fury from trade unions and disability groups, with concerns also raised by public transport organisations amid fears the move could lead to job losses and put some vulnerable passengers off train travel.
Jacqueline Starr, Rail Delivery Group chief executive, said: “The ways our customers buy tickets has changed and it’s time for the railway to change with them. With just 12% of tickets being sold from ticket offices last year, and 99% of those transactions being available on TVMs or online, our proposals would mean more staff on hand on to give face to face help with a much wider range of support, from journey planning, to finding the right ticket and helping those with accessibility needs.
“Our commitment is that we will always treat our staff, who are hugely valued and integral to the experience our customers have on the railway, fairly, with support and extra training to move into new more engaging roles. We also understand that our customers have differing needs, which is why the industry widely sought the views of accessibility and passenger groups when creating these proposals, and will continue to through the consultation. We encourage those who wish to take part to go to their local train company website or visit Transport Focus or London Travelwatch.”