Unions have warned that railways could become a ‘muggers paradise’ if ticket offices across the country are shut down following a government rule change.
The RMT trade union says the change will effectively downgrade England’s rail network compared with Wales and Scotland, and that changes will particularly impact the elderly and disabled.
Why are ticket offices at risk of closure?
The government has changed its guidance to rail operators around the opening hours of ticket offices.
According to the RMT, this change could lead to the closure of more than 1000 ticket offices across the country, meaning job losses and worse service for users.
The move is seen as part of a wider programme of cuts across England’s rail network, which has prompted a national ballot among RMT workers, amid concerns over passenger safety and excessive job-losses.
The union, which represents workers across the rail network, has warned that scrapping ticket offices will make railways less safe and accessible.
A Department for Transport spokesperson told NationalWorld that the number of ticket offices has remained roughly the same since the 90s, while the number of tickets purchased at offices has dropped from one in three ten years ago to one in eight now.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “The rail industry has made no secret of its goal of closing all ticket offices, and the floodgates have now been opened for an annihilation of ticket offices across the network.
“Ticket office staff not only enhance the passenger experience, but they ensure our railways are safe, secure and accessible. Wholescale ticket office closures would be disastrous for passengers and leave our railway deserted.
“Make no mistake, RMT is ready to use all means at our disposal to fight any attacks on ticket offices, we will be launching a widespread public and political campaign to protect ticket offices and our station staff members’ jobs.”
Levelling up agenda a ‘sham’
Analysis by the RMT suggests that more than 1000 ticketing offices across 15 different operators are at risk.
The operators named by RMT include Northern, Great Northern and Thameslink, Great Western Railway and Southeastern.
Mr Lynch said the plans are proof that the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda is a “sham”.
He added: “England’s rail is being downgraded driving unnecessary social tensions between Britain’s nations and demonstrating a political choice has been made to downgrade England’s rail users compared to Wales and Scotland.”
A DfT Spokesperson said: “The Government has committed £16bn of funding for passenger services since the start of the pandemic. Equivalent to nearly £600 per household. We need to take the rail industry off taxpayer life support.
“The reality is that ticket offices have seen a significant decline in use since the 90s yet numbers have not substantially changed since then.
“Staff will always provide face-to-face services on the railways, which can be crucial for those who need additional support and cannot, or do not want to, use contactless or mobile tickets.”