In a rare instance where a public authority has conducted a consultation and actually listened to the responses, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has junked plans to close ticket offices 51 London Overground stations, after protests from passengers and lobbying from the rail unions.
Instead, ticket offices on the Transport for London-operated railway line will receive investment in new technology to help passengers, after the Mayor provided £5million additional funding from the capital’s business rates.
Yesterday’s announcement ends the policy trend, rolled out under Khan’s Tory predecessor as London Mayor, Boris Johnson, of closing ticket offices and de-staffiing Tube stations.
Instead, London Overground’s busiest ticket offices will continue to operate as they do now. At quieter stations, ticket offices will be open a minimum of 7.30am to 10pm Monday to Friday, and longer where customer demand is more than 12 transactions per hour. According to a statement from the Mayor’s office, “The specific times for each station are being finalised and will be discussed with the trade unions before being published.”
They said, “All stations will continue to be staffed from 15 minutes before the first train of the day until 15 minutes after the last – a continuing commitment that makes London Overground stations stand out on the national rail network.”
The proposals follow a consultation last year which listed Anerley and Penge West stations for closure. Ticket offices at other London Overground stations, such as West Croydon and Norwood Junction, were only to continue because of the other rail services that used the stations.
In response, London TravelWatch stated that 24 should remain open, but 27 ticket offices would have been permanently lost. Arriva Rail London, the operator of London Overground, also conducted a station-by-station review of the network with the trade unions, which included consulting with its staff for their views.
According to the announcement from the Mayor’s office, “new world-leading ticket machine technology” will be trialled at a number of stations this summer. The technology will connect customers by video link to a member of staff who can help guide them through ticket purchasing and provide other assistance if needed.
If the trials prove popular with customers, this technology could be expanded to be a feature of ticket machines at every London Overground station across the capital.
Ticket barriers remotely controlled using video will also be trialled.
“Proposals were being considered that would have resulted in the permanent loss of 27 ticket offices,” Khan said.
“However, having listened closely to the views of passengers and to the hard-working staff at our stations, I have asked TfL to ensure that no ticket officers will be closed permanently, and the busiest ticket offices will remain open to passengers exactly as they do now.”
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I just don’t know, but suspect why, so many people dislike Sadiq Khan. He is really quite modest, resolute and, more than most politicians, tries to keep his promises. Many of his so called failures are to do with the appalling legacy left to him by the indescribably useless Boris Johnson.
If you recall Zac Goldsmith’s despicable mayoral campaign you’ll know exactly why some people dislike Sadiq Khan.
Which is exactly what I was thinking. No, its actually exactly what I am sure of and I think it is appalling. So much of the press he gets is basically racist and is very seldom based on fact or reality. Sure, he has made some mistakes but his record of achievement and careful management, both in itself and compared to his predecessor is really excellent. One wonders why the posy, pushy, self-important Sajid Javid never attracts the same press. Something to do with political party perhaps?
I am very glad to hear that the ticket offices are remaining open, particularly on the lines to West Croydon and Crystal Palace, which are served by as many or more Southern trains as TfL services. Norwood Junction also has Thameslink and other trains which travel beyond the boundaries of London. We imagined that the transfer of the station management on these lines to TfL in 2010 would improve rather than reduce the services offered, so closure of the offices would have been a bitter blow.
More contentiously, I also feel that the transfer of staff on the Underground from ticket offices, where they were quietly performing a useful function, to the platforms, where they badger us with a hail of annoying, over-amplified pointless instructions and announcements, was a serious mistake.
The presence of real live people in a secure base on stations must be good. My perception is that vandalism and reduced public safety follow the scrapping of these fixed offices.
My concern now is that due to the onset of electronic scanning of Oyster cards and payment cards, and people (of all ages) are just getting out of the habit of using ticket offices. Rather like the decline in demand for staffed deli counters in supermarkets, could this be due to the fact that people seem to be a bit scared of person-to-person contact nowadays, and would rather use a ticket machine, squinting in the sunshine at a feeble A to Z station finder, taking double the time to get their tickets, even when the nearby ticket office is open?.
One hopes that the staff in these offices have other work to do when they are not issuing tickets or answering queries, and don’t get very bored when the flow of ticket-buying customers is a trickle.
On another related point, the gate staff on many Underground, Overground — and on Southern stations such as my local station Coulsdon South- are sentenced to almost freeze to death for months each year, as they have to stand in a location that is under cover, but totally sunless, and is a wind-tunnel open to stone-cold through draughts at all times.
Their feet freeze, while the infra red heater above their heads can’t be good for their faces or skin on their scalps.
Railway staff like this deserve better, as they are on duty for hours and hours every day in unhealthy conditions. This must take a toll on their heath over the years.
Station design needs to provide warm protection for such barrier staff — insulated sentry boxes or …….. mini-ticket offices.