Rail union slams ‘ticket office carnage’

It could be all change when buying a rail ticket
It could be all change when buying a rail ticket

Railway station ticket offices in Eastbourne, Polegate and Lewes may only be open at peak times under plans revealed this week.

In off-peak periods they could be replaced by ‘station hosts’ - staff selling tickets on the station concourse.

More than 80 stations could be involved in the shake-up, which rail union RMT described as “ticket office carnage”.

It is to launch an immediate campaign to defend jobs and services in a formal public consultation across routes served by Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern.

There are three categories of stations where ticket offices could be at risk: Stations that sell fewer than 12 tickets an hour; stations where more than 12 tickets an hour are sold but passengers still use ticket machines and other ways to pay; and stations that still rely heavily on ticket offices at peak times.

Eastbourne, Polegate and Lewes fall in the third category. Here it is proposed to staff the ticket office window at peak times, but ticket selling equipment would also be positioned at a station hosting point so the staff are available on the concourse.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said, “These plans, driven by the desire to de-staff our railways in the quest for profit, would unleash a wave of ticket office carnage across rail franchises that are already seen as the basket-cases of Britain’s privatised railway network.

“It is clear that Govia couldn’t give two hoots about passenger services, jobs and safety and are prepared to milk these routes for every single penny that they can extract regardless of what the travelling public think of them.

“It is a disgrace and Govia should be slung out and these essential rail services taken into public ownership before these latest profit-driven cuts are allowed to rip through these 81 stations from North to South.

“It is no coincidence that this threat comes as Southern are already gearing up to axe guards from their services in yet another lethal gamble with safety-critical jobs on some of Britain’s most dangerously overcrowded trains and platforms.

“RMT is launching a campaign of opposition to these plans and we will be working with the travelling public to stop them in their tracks.”

A spokesperson for Govia Thameslink Railway said, “We want to modernise the way we operate approximately 80 of our busier stations across Great Northern, Southern and Thameslink for the benefit of passengers, many of whom now buy their tickets online, or use Oyster, contactless and smartcards.

“Where sales from ticket offices are low, we want to bring staff out from behind the windows and on to the concourse to work where they’re needed most, as Station Hosts, providing assistance and helping sell tickets from ticket machines and their own handheld devices.

“All the affected stations will be staffed for longer as a result – at all but two they would be staffed from the very first train of the day to the very last, seven days a week.

“This will drive other customer benefits – we’ll also be able to increase the opening hours of facilities passengers have told us are important, such as waiting rooms, toilets and lifts.”

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