The future of ticket offices at our railway stations is in doubt.
This is inevitable given only 10% of tickets on average are bought at ticket offices (though 15% at Gloucester). The vast majority of tickets are bought online.
Unions don’t want any change and are lobbying for ticket offices to stay as they are, as if the online world didn't exist. Many retailers who thought that way are now extinct. But there are rail travellers and situations where a ticket office is useful. So what’s the right way forward?
Nothing will be decided until after the train operator has seen the results of the consultation. The key is for as many rail travellers as possible to send our views and responses to the consultation NOW. I’m replying today and please do the same yourselves by tomorrow (Wednesday 26th July) evening. See the end of this mail for how.
The GWR proposal
The GWR and other operators' basic aim is to close many ticket offices (including ours) with ticketing staff working outside their current office to help customers use the ticket machines - a bit like supermarket staff helping you check out yourself.
But whereas supermarkets offer a blend of self check out (with staff to help if need be) and staff check out, the current station proposal is soon not to have any staff ticket service at all. There is very little transition proposed, let alone retaining a help desk window thereafter.
That can’t be right for all customers or all situations at a big and busy station like ours, with all types of customers and so I’ll be pushing for a solution that:
- Recognises 85% of tickets from Gloucester station are not bought from the ticket office & having two (let alone all three) windows staffed on a regular basis isn’t necessary, except possibly at some peak mornings
- Agrees more help for passengers buying from the ticket machines is welcome
- Supports greater flexibility of job description
- Advocates for some ticket office support for those who can’t buy online / at the ticket machine, recognises machines don’t always work, that queues at machines can build up and points to the supermarket model as a way of implementing gradual change - carrying customers with GWR and all operators' modernisation
- Highlights that passengers on platform 2 at Gloucester have nowhere to sit indoors (unless buying a tea in the cafe) and so a redesign of current station space to allow for that (and better toilets) is badly needed; and that redesigning the ticket office is an opportunity to do this
- At a time when we have good passenger growth - the extra new services I campaigned long and hard for to Bristol/Worcester are well supported - we need both the station building and the GWR team to be able to support customers (many of whom are my constituents) as best possible. That isn't currently the case because of the station's physical constraints, which is why I'm working on another station improvement bid with GWR.
- At the moment on decision making after the consultation I think Gloucester Station will probably need one ticket office window and computer even if only as a support for hand held ticket machines and online booking
Please do look at the GWR proposals on www.gwr.com/haveyoursay or go direct to the form https://www.transportfocus.org.uk/ticket-office-consultation/
If an online consultation is daunting, like buying tickets online, then just email ticketoffice.GWR@transportfocus.org.uk and if you prefer hard copy do write to RTEH-XAGE-BYKZ, Transport Focus, PO Box 5594, Southend on Sea, SS1 9PZ. Lastly you can seek help on 0300 123 2350 and send your views to them by this Wednesday evening (26 July).
Do also copy your reply to me on email@example.com if you’d like me to be aware of your views.
Useful discussion last week with GWR about their plans for Gloucester Station
Travelling by train twice a week, no one appreciates rail travel more. But we must modernise both how we do so and keep it accessible while improving our station. So I will apply for a debate in Parliament to push for a balanced way forward which delivers what we need best.