Southeastern has announced a consultation (along with 13 other train operators) on the future of ticket offices. The train operator says the aim is to make more staff available to assist customers face-to-face, for those that need help, and to provide technology (like e-tickets and Pay-As-You-Go) for those happy to self-serve.
Southeastern says the move should bust queues for tickets at stations and will be underpinned by the rollout of digital technology.,
Five million e-tickets are now sold every week by train companies and retailers like Trainline. As Southeastern continue to roll out more e-ticket routes, this number is expected to continue growing.
If proposals for the future of ticket offices are approved, when the results of the consultation are implemented, Southeastern says it will ensure skilled staff who currently work in ticket offices will get support and training to transition to new roles.
There is currently a wide variation across the 180 stations Southeastern serves, of different opening times and colleagues available, at their 142 ticket offices. At the conclusion of Southeastern’s consultation, the following is proposed:
At 14 of the busiest stations, Travel Centres will be provided, offering a combination of travel information and ticketing solutions.
At Southeastern’s medium and larger sized stations, where it is agreed ticket offices are no longer required, they will be closed. Overall, these stations will have fewer colleagues
At Southeastern’s smaller stations, where the only colleague currently on the station is the person in the ticket office, if agreed that the ticket office will be closed.
18 smaller stations, where vacancies have resulted in the station being temporarily unstaffed, will be restaffed as staff are deployed where they are most needed.
Every station currently staffed, will continue to be staffed.
Subject to consultation, these changes are expected to be phased over the next two years.
Steve White, Managing Director of Southeastern said: “The world has changed and Southeastern wants to change with it by offering a better, more reliable, and sustainable railway. An overhaul of the way we operate our stations is long overdue.
“Customers love our people not our ticket offices. This consultation proposes making more of our people available to help customers face-to-face providing a wider range of support, including accessibility assistance and deterring anti-social behaviour. It proposes introducing 14 travel centres at our busiest stations and restaffing 18 stations, currently unstaffed due to vacancies.
“Most customers now buy tickets on their phones in simple, queue-free, transactions or use Pay-As-You-Go. Five million e-tickets are now sold weekly by train companies and retailers like Trainline. With customers buying holidays, shopping and banking online they can now also buy rail tickets on their phone at a time that suits them.
“For those happy to use self-service, buying a ticket will be as easy as possible whether on our app, website or at our ticket vending machines (TVMs) and this consultation will ensure they can do that.
“For customers who need ticketing assistance this will remain available through our travel centres, station colleagues and 24/7 helpline for assisted travel.
“At the same time, we want to reduce taxpayers’ subsidy of our business and ensure a sustainable future as a vital public service. The aim is to provide a better service at a lower cost.”
‘Unnecessary mass closure’
However, rail union TSSA has said it will work hand in glove with the public to ‘vigorously oppose the “totally unnecessary mass closure” of ticket offices’ across the railway network amid speculation the government will shortly announce the move.
TSSA has a long-standing policy opposing mass ticket office closures, with many members working in these vital roles. The union has previously pointed to the significantly detrimental impact such a policy would have on a number of social groups, making the railways less safe and less accessible.
TSSA Interim General Secretary, Peter Pendle, said: “If the government wants to go down this route they should know we will vigorously oppose the totally unnecessary mass closure of ticket offices.
“We will work hand in glove campaigning with the public who will quickly spot that this is a leap backwards by Ministers. Booking office staff are vital because they give passengers advice and assistance on ticket information, station security and can assist those with disabilities, limited mobility or young children.
“The impact of closing ticket offices would be felt by millions of people and have a detrimental impact on our communities up and down the land. Our appeal as a campaigning union is for the public to resist and stand with us in this resistance.
“We also need MPs across the House of Commons to make it clear they will not allow the railways to be damaged in this way. We need clarity from the government about their plans, and what this means for our members so that we have a railway network which works for all.”
Southeastern’s consultation will take place in phases. The first phase will be on 40 tickets offices in Southeastern’s Metro area that each sell fewer than 50 tickets daily and where customers can use Pay-As-You-Go (tap in, tap out) for their journey. Many of these ticket offices sell 10 tickets or less daily at the window.
Consultation is open from today for the Metro stations and all other stations will be consulted on in Autumn this year.