Thursday, July 13, 2023

News: Ticket offices set to close at Rotherham stations


Nearly a thousand railway stations, including Rotherham Central and Swinton, are set to see their ticket offices closed under recently announced plans to modernise customer service across the rail network.

Train companies, including Northern Rail - the operator of stations in the borough, have launched passenger consultations to move staff from ticket offices and into stations, offering more face-to-face support for customers across the network as a whole.

Opponents believe that the move will restrict passengers’ access to the best value tickets, worsen passenger service, accessibility, safety and security and lead to a de-staffing of stations.

Where adopted, the proposals will see ticket office staff transitioning to multi-skilled ‘customer help’ roles - already in place in many parts of the network - where they would be better able to give advice about the best and cheapest fares, advise on journey planning and support customers with accessibility needs. The changes would mean a more visible and accessible staff presence across the network as a whole at stations during staffed hours, on ticket concourses and on platforms.

The Rail Delivery Group, previously the Association of Train Operating Companies, said that 12% of tickets are sold at ticket offices on average following a generational shift in customer behavior. It added that an estimated 99% of all transactions made at ticket offices last year can be made at Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) or online.

Staff are likely to be given the option to move to a new skilled role and comprehensive re-training and re-skilling.

Objecting to the proposals, Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham, said: "I strongly believe that passengers would no longer have widespread and easy access to the purchase of rail products and best value fares if the ticket offices closures went ahead.

"There is substantial demand for the ticket office. While the Government says that 'only' 12% of tickets are sold at ticket offices, in 2022/23, there were 1.5 billion passenger journeys, which equates to around 180 million journeys being facilitated by ticket offices."

The MP raised concerns over ticket machines and added that ticket office closures would cause a "significant worsening of the facilities and support offered to disabled, deaf and older people."

The RMT union claimed that train bosses had already issued hundreds of redundancy notices to staff.

Champion added: "It is difficult to see how train operators would be able to demonstrate that their proposals would make cost savings, unless there is the intention to reduce staffing. I am wholly opposed to any cuts to station staffing and believe any supposed cost savings cannot be used to justify a policy that will worsen passenger service, accessibility, safety, security and access to rail products.

"I also believe that ticket office closures will be counterproductive in terms of revenue, as it would disincentivize rail travel for many."

Re-opening in 2012 following a £8.5m revamp, it took years before a ticket machine was installed at Rotherham Central.

National Rail's website has the ticket office opening at Rotherham Central between 6am and 6:45pm weekdays and then 7am and 6:45pm on Saturdays, 8:45am - 4:15pm on Sundays. Swinton station's ticket office is curently listed as opening between 7am and 1:30pm Monday to Saturday and closed on a Sunday.

Images: AHR Global


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