Ticket office closed. By Phil Marsh

London Midland ticket office closures labelled as a benefit by the Government

Published 9th October 2012

Sir Humphrey decrees that closing booking offices brings passenger benefits

LONDON - "Train Operator London Midland will improve passenger facilities at stations they manage to reflect changing needs while making efficiency savings", Transport Minister Norman Baker has announced.

Mr Baker partly approved proposals by London Midland to change the minimum opening hours at some ticket offices, but says he has protected the interests of passengers.

The closure details and associated benefits

The benefits are 29 more ticket vending machines at stations which do not currently have them, allowing passengers to buy tickets around the clock. The provision of additional platform waiting shelters and better signage. There will also be more boarding ramps for wheelchair users and station lifts to be kept in operation at all times.

The announcement also said that passengers who require assistance in making their journey will also be able to book this via a new industry website launched by ATOC. This supposes that all intending passengers have access to the internet and are able to give sufficient notice to be assisted at the station. Obviously not all journeys are pre-planned. Four ticket offices that will be allowed to close are Cheddington, Lye, Witton and Wythall.

They said:

Norman Baker said:

“These changes will better reflect the way passengers buy their tickets while improving satisfaction and efficiency."

“I have protected passenger interests while allowing changes that provide savings to taxpayers and passengers far beyond the life of the existing franchise which will ultimately save millions of pounds.”

A number of ticket offices will be allowed to reduce their opening hours during very quiet periods, while several ticket offices at busy stations will have their minimum opening hours extended.

Where are the new ticket machines?

Acocks Green, Aston.

Bescot Stadium, Blake Street, Butlers Lane.

Canley, Coseley

Hagley, Hall Green, Hamstead, Hartford.

Jewellery Quarter.

Langley Green, Lea Hall.

Malvern Link.

Old Hill.

Olton.

Sandwell & Dudley, Shirley, Smethwick Galton Bridge and Rolfe Street, Spring Road, Stourbridge Town.

The Hawthorns, Tile Hill.

Widney Manor, Winsford, Wythall.

Yardley Wood.

Who dunnit?

These alterations were proposed by London Midland under the rules of the Ticketing and Settlement Agreement, an agreement between train operators that governs many aspects of the sale of tickets and the setting of fares. London Midland’s proposal only came to the Department to arbitrate because they could not reach agreement with the passenger representative bodies Passenger Focus and London TravelWatch.

Definition of passenger benefits

The new signage will be to redirect passengers, who cannot buy a ticket, so the benefits here are a slightly unclear. The new waiting areas are only to be installed where existing ones will no longer be able to be used when the ticket office closes, again, not really a new benefit as claimed!

Operating Difficulties.

The 30 new train boarding ramps will be located on platforms and station staff (where available) and on-train staff will use these to assist wheelchair users in boarding trains. This presumably will cause delays while the Guard is trying to manage safety and there is no mention of trains that are Driver only operated.

The mention of ATOC’s new web based booking tool for older and disabled passengers (“Rail Travel Made Easy”) delivering more reliable information to staff and booking confirmation to disabled passengers is obviously welcomed, but there are many older people, who do not or cannot use the internet, so the proposal is useless.

How can a ticket machine replace a person at a ticket office?

The Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) that are to be put in place at stations will have the advantage that they will be available for the whole day – this is an improvement in service at many stations where the ticket office is not currently open for the whole day the DfT claims.

During busy times, these new TVMs will be additional to ticket office staff, which will help to reduce queuing times. Whether these machines will offer the full range of tickets is another matter not addressed in the announcement.

This proposal, it is suspected, is really about reducing costs for London Midland who will decide how and when to implement the changes, is available from the ATOC website.

Wolverton opening and closure

Wolverton station has just received a new £2.5m station building with a ticket office. This was opened in July and already the opening hours cut back by two hours. The London Midland consultation was underway while construction was also underway...

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