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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