Rail companies planning mass closing of ticket offices – BBC News

  • By Michael Race & Katy Austin
  • Business reporter and Transport correspondent, BBC News

image source, Getty’s image

The rail company plans to push ahead with mass closings of ticket offices across the UK.

Industry bosses are expected to confirm public consultations on the phased closure of hundreds of ticket kiosks over the next three years on Wednesday.

Some will remain at major stations, but in others staff will be at meetings to sell tickets, offer travel advice and assist people with accessibility.

Rail unions oppose the plan and have warned of further strikes.

About three out of every five stations have ticket offices.

The move to initiate consultations on the future of the ticket office has been made by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents the rail company, after talks with the RMT union failed to reach an agreement.

Industry bodies say only 12% of tickets are currently sold on average at station kiosks, compared with 85% in 1995, with passengers now buying more tickets online or at machines.

It said the change would allow staff to come out from behind the glass of the station office and be free to assist more passengers. A small number of stations are already operating under the new model.

“The industry has always been open and honest about the need for rail to develop with its customers so as to better meet their needs, and secure a thriving long-term future for an economically vital service,” said a spokesperson for the RDG.

But Mick Lynch, general secretary of Britain’s largest rail union, RMT, previously said his union would not “obediently sit back and allow thousands of jobs to be sacrificed or see disabled and vulnerable passengers left unable to use rail as a result”.

Peter Pendle, acting general secretary of the TSSA rail union, said the government would “quickly recognize that people don’t want to see their rail network reduced in this way”.

‘Very complicated’

Stewart Palmer is a director of Rail Future, which represents passengers and campaigns for better rail service, and the former managing director of South West Trains. He said the consulting “put the cart before the horse”.

“One of the root causes of this problem is that the current ticketing system on the UK rail network is very complicated,” he told the BBC’s Today programme.

“People want a knowledgeable and versatile staff, not necessarily behind the scenes, but they also want to know they are buying the right product at the right price.”

Mr Palmer, who has 38 years of experience in rail, said whatever the outcome of the consultations, it was important that a commitment to customer service was “wired” into the rail operator’s contract for years to come and that this was “monitored and enforced”. .

The issue is the latest flashpoint between the rail company and unions, which have long been at odds over wages, jobs and working conditions, which have resulted in several strikes in recent years.

The rail industry is under pressure from the government to cut costs after receiving huge support during the Covid pandemic.

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The Department of Transport declined to comment on the consultation.

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