Diss train station visited by Green Party co-leader Adrian Ramsay as ticket office closures discussed
Plans to remove ticket offices from train stations are “part and parcel of the frittering away of local services in rural areas’.
That is according to Green Party co-leader Adrian Ramsay, who was at Diss train station on Friday to register his unease at the plans, which have put 980 tickets offices in England at risk of closure.
“Ticket office staff are often the only source of advice for people trying to navigate through the ticketing system,” said Mr Ramsay.
“Having a human presence is particularly vital for disabled and elderly passengers and stations are vital transport hubs for thousands who live in the Waveney Valley constituency.
“The different, fragmented, privatised train operating companies have made ticketing so complicated that you often find it is only a human being, employed to sell tickets, who can provide the best advice in terms of the cheapest route.”
The rail industry – under pressure from the Government to cut costs after being propped up during the Covid pandemic – points to falling usage, with the majority of tickets now bought online or at self-service machines.
“The train operating companies argue that staff will be redeployed helping on platforms, but it is hard not to see this as anything but a way to cut staff costs long term,” said Mr Ramsay, who is set to stand as a candidate for the new Waveney Valley constituency in next year’s general election.
“This is all part and parcel of the frittering away of local services in rural areas that has gone on for years. Rural bus routes, for example, a lifeline for many disabled and elderly who are unable to drive, have been cut to ribbons in Norfolk and Suffolk over the years.
”If the Government wants to save money on the subsidies it gives to private train operating companies, it should do what the Green Party has long proposed: return the franchises to public control when they expire so that money spent on trains goes back into trains – and ticket offices – not into the pockets of remote shareholders.”
Under the proposals, some ticket kiosks would remain in large stations, but elsewhere staff will be on concourses to sell tickets, offer travel advice and help people with accessibility.
The plans have been met with concern from unions and disability groups.
The Rail Delivery Group, which is organising a consultation on the plans and has recently extended it to September, said: “These proposals are designed to move staff out of ticket offices and on to station platforms and concourses to support better, face-to-face interactions, with the potential to close ticket offices in a number of locations.
“New, multi-skilled customer help roles – which are already in place at many stations – will mean staff are able to help more customers across a whole range of needs, from buying tickets, to offering travel advice and helping those with accessibility needs.
“If accepted, the proposed changes would be phased in gradually.
“Ticket office facilities will remain open at the busiest stations and interchanges, selling the full range of tickets.”
For more information and to comment on the consultation, go to www.transportfocus.org.uk.