Listen to People Before Closing Rail Ticket Offices
You have until 26th of July to submit your thoughts to the consultation at the following address...
Before writing this, I must point out that, compared to many privately run train companies, GWR are pretty great. They listen, invest and have a really good community fund.
However, I was disappointed to hear of a nationwide consultation to consider closing station ticket offices and move staff to the concourses, to help people use the machines apparently.
I then received an email from someone who works in the Exmouth office. I was told they were holding a demonstration against the changes and I was happy to lend my support.
The town I represent has large numbers of tourists, many of whom are elderly, and a large non computer literate population. Their unwillingness and inability to use online or machine booking systems is not their fault - they simply don't have the skills. Why should they?! Even at the age of 46 and fairly tech-savvy, I'm often overwhelmed by options, choice and lack of clarity when trying to book anything online.
If the cheapest fare was the only fare, whenever you book it, it wouldn't matter so much - but when finding the cheapest fare is so difficult, the ticket office is still incredibly important. You can't change a ticket at a machine, either.
This has to be taken into account when considering Exmouth - I would invite you to look at the number of journeys from here carried out by buying tickets from the office. I'd wager it was significantly higher than the national average.
The need to reduce costs on the railway is a constant - they've tried getting rid of guards and, rightly, that wasn't successful. Now ticket offices are under threat.
Being political for a moment, this is where railway privatisation doesn't deliver - cost cutting over quality customer facilities. Profits, pure and simple.
Having spoken with staff at the Exmouth office, I'm also shocked to hear that, like the rest of us, they learned about this consultation on the national news. That's not good enough.
Three questions are at the heart of these closures:
- Can the train companies guarantee that people will be able to change tickets?
- Can they guarantee the best fare always being available at the machines?
- Can they guarantee that the staff redeployed to the platforms will not eventually be made redundant?
If the answer to any of these is no, the people I represent deserve to be listened to and I request that the consultation does exactly that.