Transport User Voice November 2023 – Train operators withdraw ticket office plans

01 November 2023

Transport Focus objects to proposals

Plans to close rail ticket offices have been withdrawn by train operators following Transport Focus and London TravelWatch objecting to all of the current proposals.

The Secretary of State for Transport announced the outcome of the consultation and that the Government has asked train operators to withdraw their proposals.

Together with London TravelWatch we received 750,000 responses from individuals and organisations to the consultation. Those responses contained powerful and passionate concerns about the potential changes. Transport Focus would like to thank all those who took the time to take part.

The main themes that emerged from the responses included ticket machine capability, accessibility and how passenger assistance and information would be delivered in future.

During this process, Transport Focus’s discussions with train companies led to significant amendments and revisions to original proposals, demonstrating the value of this independent review process. Many revised train company proposals re-instated existing staffing hours, identified new and innovative solutions, promised extra facilities to sell more tickets and all ticket types and cope with cash payments and refunds.

Transport Focus is supportive of the principle of redeploying staff at some stations from ticket offices to improve the overall offer to the passenger. We also recognise the extreme financial pressure facing the railways and the need to find new, cost-effective ways of working. However, the detail around some of the proposals, particularly new customer support arrangements, were not yet well-developed. A lack of an overall delivery plan also raised concerns that closures may occur before new arrangements are in place.

While many of the revised station proposals failed to meet the criteria set by Transport Focus, there were some, such as those proposed by GWR and TransPennine Express, which met the majority of our criteria. However, across all proposals, there were key issues, that are critical to maintaining accessibility for all to the national network that remained unresolved.

Announcing Transport Focus’s objection to the proposals, Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith, said:

“Following analysis of the 750,000 responses to the consultation and in-depth discussions with train companies Transport Focus is objecting to the proposals to close ticket offices.

“Significant amendments and changes have been secured by the watchdog – for example, reverting to existing times when staff will be on hand at many stations. Some train companies were closer than others in meeting our criteria.

“However, serious overall concerns remain about how potentially useful innovations, such as ‘welcome points’ would work in practice. We also have questions about how the impact of these changes would be measured and how future consultation on staffing levels will work.

“Some train companies were unable to convince us about their ability to sell a full range of tickets, handle cash payments and avoid excessive queues at ticket machines.

“Passengers must be confident they can get help when needed and buy the right ticket in time for the right train.”
More details are available in Transport Focus’s response to each individual train company proposals:

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