IMPORTANT UPDATE 01/11/2023:
I am delighted that the Government has instructed Rail Operators to scrap plans to close train station ticket offices, including in Twickenham constituency.
This is the right decision made for the right reasons, including the wholly disproportionate impact on elderly and vulnerable passengers and train station security.
There were over 750,000 submissions lodged, including a submission I had made after hearing concerns raised on the doorstep and in response to a local campaign over the summer.
I wish to also acknowledge the efforts of many local community campaigners in Twickenham whose voices have also been heard: Twickenham Conservatives, Elizabeth Foster, Grant Healy.
Widespread residents’ concerns over SWR plans to close ticket offices
- Huge response to his campaign
- Numerous worries if new regime goes ahead
I would like to thank the local residents who wrote to me or expressed their views on the doorstep as part of my Tell Jonathan campaign in response to the controversial proposals to close some tickets offices in Twickenham constituency.
I have now submitted a response to the consultation.
The plan to some close ticket offices in Twickenham constituency, including Teddington station is premature and must not go ahead as proposed.
Staff should only be moved out of ticket offices when they are able to carry out all their current duties either on the public ticket machines or on handheld devices.
It should also be remembered that the ticket machines were provided to supplement the booking office, but now they are to be the main focus so there will be a need to provide more of them.
Ticket machines will also need to be upgraded to accept foreign bank cards, and operate in foreign languages as most of the current machines on the South Western Railways network do not have these capabilities despite the very high number of foreign visitors to London.
In Twickenham constituency, many stations will see their staffing numbers significantly reduced at the same time, and this is the part that is unacceptable to most people.
Teddington is the third most used stations in the Twickenham constituency but will be staffed for a fifth of their current hours: reduced from 90 to 20 hours per week. Rather than leaving station staffing decisions to franchise holders, the government should be looking to set national standards across England that maximise the number of hours customer-facing staff are available at stations.
Having a staffed ticket office, particularly at recognised peak times, provides benefits to many vulnerable or disadvantaged customers.
In am particularly concerned about blind or partially sighted users, wheelchair users and elderly customers who cannot operate a ticket vending machine or buy a ticket online or need mobility support. They are likely to either not travel at all or turn to other passengers for help and there is a risk that some will be ignored or taken advantage of by criminals. The overall effect of these changes will be to marginalise these groups further which is unacceptable, in my opinion.
The current complexity of rail fares with a wide variety of ticket types means, in my opinion, that users must continue to have access to trained ticket staff able to provide the full range of services at most stations.
The absence of this service will mean that some users will overpay significantly. Not all ticket fares can be purchased via a ticket vending machine. Some such as the 50% Wheelchair User Discount can only be purchased at a ticket office and the current proposal that users should buy a standard ticket and then exchange a ticket either at their destination or apply for a refund online shows a lack of understanding of the challenges marginalised groups face.
Refunds cannot be obtained from a ticket vending machine, only online or at a staffed ticket office. However, we need to remember that many people do not have the means to wait for a refund, particularly children or those living on benefits.
Access to toilets will also be significantly reduced because at most stations they are only available when the station is staffed and again this will affect the vulnerable and disadvantaged customers the most.
Station staff also have a wider role concerning security and welfare; helping to prevent suicides, dealing with the terrorism risk, reducing fare evasion, preventing anti-social behaviour, and providing reassurance to passengers who otherwise would not travel due to fears about personal safety.
Rather than reducing staffing further there should be a real push to provide more staffing/security during operational hours for stations, particularly in the evening and nighttime.