Tories move to shut ticket offices at 1,000 railway stations

The Tory government, in the final throes of its catastrophic administration, has decided to end its days in a headlong battle with the rail unions, after imposing the closure of almost all of England’s station ticket offices.

Staff cuts: even some of the busiest stations will have their ticket offices closed under the Tory government plans

The move has been opposed by passenger and disability groups, as well as the rail unions, and has been broadly criticised by transport experts and railway executives.

Around 1,000 railways stations in England will be affected, with the first ticket office closures expected by this Christmas in a three-year programme.

The plans from the Department for Transport were first exposed by the Association of British Commuters a fortnight ago.

Someone from the DfT today lied when they told news agencies said that the proposals were “not about cutting jobs”.

Transport expert Christian Wolmar said, “Ticket office closures will not save money as revenue will be lost and staff are needed. Ticket machines are not fit for purpose.”

Wolmar said, “Until the pandemic, train operators were responsible for paying for ticket offices and closed very few judging they were economically worthwhile. Now ministers with no commercial background are taking the opposite view.”

The government-instigated move is supposed to be a cost-cutting measure, as passenger numbers have never recovered after the covid lockdown and are at their lowest since 2002, with revenue 30per cent below 2020 levels.

The move was confirmed this morning by the Rail Delivery Group, with railway staff told of the plan to close almost all of the 1,007 remaining offices, except at the busiest stations, within three years.

The RDG said ticket office staff would move on to station platforms and concourses in “new and engaging roles”. Which is nice.

Speaking out: Mick Lynch of the RMT

But many fear job losses, with any guarantees offered over compulsory redundancies in pay talks set to expire at the end of next year.

The RMT union said it was “a savage attack on railway workers, their families and the travelling public” and claimed operators had issued hundreds of statutory redundancy notices to staff.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “It is clear that the whole enterprise of closing ticket offices has got nothing to do with modernisation and is a thinly veiled plan to gut our railways of station staff.”

Train operators said there were no redundancy notices, but it is understood that Section188 letters – informing unions and staff that posts were at risk – have been sent.

The train operators are directly contracted by the government and have been told to find savings to bridge the gap in revenue, with fare income in decline with the decline in commuting amid a switch to hybrid working patterns.

Train operators have been embroiled in industrial disputes with the unions for the past year, but as The Guardian reported this morning, “the government has pushed rail firms into moving ahead with controversial reform, with little headway in negotiations and more strikes coming. The RMT and TSSA unions have said they will ‘vigorously oppose’ the proposals.”

The future: closures are planned at almost all railway stations in England

Today marked the start of an abrupt three-week formal consultation period.

Passengers have been urged to make their voices heard through the independent watchdogs Transport Focus and London TravelWatch.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People said the closures would have a “hugely detrimental impact on blind and partially sighted people’s ability to buy tickets, arrange assistance and, critically, travel independently”.

The Green Party said it was a “needless fight” instigated by a “government that does not care about people who use public transport to get around”.

The RDG chief executive, Jacqueline Starr, said: “The ways our customers buy tickets has changed and it’s time for the railway to change with them.

“With just 12per cent of tickets being sold from ticket offices last year, and 99per cent of those transactions being available on ticket vending machines or online, our proposals would mean more staff on hand to give face-to-face help with a much wider range of support, from journey planning to finding the right ticket and helping those with accessibility needs.”

It is the government that will decided which ticket offices will close. At present, around 60per cent of has a ticket office, although some are only staffed part-time.

Rail chief: Jacqueline Starr

Under the plans, if a passenger was unable to purchase a ticket, they would be able to buy one during the journey, at a ticket office en-route or at their destination, the RDG said.

Peter Pendle, from the TSSA rail union, said the government would “soon realise that the public have no desire to see their rail network diminished in this way”.

Stewart Palmer, is a director of Rail Future, with 38 years of working on the railways, including as a former managing director South West Trains. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, he said: “One of the root causes of this issue is that the present ticketing system on the rail network in Britain is mind-bogglingly complicated.

“People want versatile, knowledgeable staff, not necessarily behind a glass screen, but they also want to be knowing they’re buying the right product at the right price.”

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14 Responses to Tories move to shut ticket offices at 1,000 railway stations

  1. Ian Kierans says:

    So what does the Office of Road and Rail say about that? How does that meet minimum staffing requirements on stations for safety?
    I mean quite clearly the contradiction
    ”Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the Sunday Telegraph that ministers are looking at drawing up laws which would make industrial action illegal unless a certain number of staff are working.

    Can I ask how Mr Harper (Shit Shapes successor) will he be looking at drawing up laws which would make operation illegal and introduce punative fines along with removing public subsidy to those operators who do not have staff avaialble at all open times to facilitate all travellers including those with disabilties visible and hidden to travel safely? Will those laws be introduced prior to the removal of staff from ticket offices? How exactly will operators comply with existing laws including those brought in after Clapham Junction, Purley Oaks Kings Cross etc etc?

    At least TfL actually does own up to shit it gets wrong (in the end) and even LRT did pretty much everything after Kings Cross and Boris pissed their subsidy up the wall making them one of the few if only Rail operator without Public funding – Was it to make Khans job harder one asks? Irrespective the outcome was the same in passenger detriment.

    Can I ask the Operators issuing those 118 notices to ALL staff affected, including those with disabilities and in office areas as a reasonable adjustment how they will be catering to those legal rights of employee’s?

    Or maybe those are just awkward questions to be glossed over?

  2. Paul Reitman says:

    Thanks to your article about the opening of this restaurant/takeaway in Croydon’s North End, I took the time to be among the first one hundred customers in the queue. Whilst it was a fairly long wait in a very disciplined line, it was well worthwhile as the food is all freshly prepared on show to the public and in my opinion represents excellent value for money; options being a base of fried rice or fried noodles with a choice of topping such as Teriyaki beef or several flavours of chicken ( I tried the zesty lemon chicken – delicious!). I predict that as its reputation spreads we will at last have a successful business in Croydon Town Centre.

    • Thanks Paul. I assume you’re writing about Chopstix.

      Dunno why you posted your comment in response to an article about railway station ticket office closures.

      • Ian Kierans says:

        Perhaps to let all those unable to travel know that there is a refeshment place just down the road while they are waiting for assistance to travel?

  3. Lancaster says:

    If ticket offices are to close, then there must be staff to help customers who have challenges or problems using the ticket machines.

    There are still many of us who use cash, and do not have or use a mobile phone.

    As long as these staff-less ticket machines take cash, and there are staff to help customers who have problems using the ticket machines, then closing the ticket offices will be OK.

    But if the above is not catered for then this will disenfranchise and exclude a whole section of society, from using the public transport system.

    Once human interaction is removed, we will be in a whole heap of trouble and societal shit.

    • Ian Kierans says:

      Q, How much cash does a Ringo parking meter take? A. None.

      That is Croydon Councils decision as it is impossible to do their job of maintaining machines and collecting cash. so rather than find a solution they remove cash.
      In Croydon there is already a huge disenfranchised group of residents and it grows daily. And human interaction rarely takes places between residents and this Council. So guess you are speaking from our daily experiences!
      Removing the machines totally removes the proble and cost but does not generate money from parking fees or parking fines. Due to the inadequate funding of enforcement we are unlikely to see much difference to the amount of anti social parking behaviours

  4. chris myers says:

    Railway ticket offices are universally unhelpful in my experience. Great idea to equip station, train and platform staff with the kit to help. Good grief – this is the 21st century and people do not want to queue up at a kiosk only to find the cubicle slammed shut or the operator giving us a passive-aggressive response.

  5. Lewis White says:

    That last comment is not my experience at Coulsdon South, Coulsdon Town, or other station I have used. Very helpful staff, in general .

    Try getting from the ticket machine– if you can read the faded display screen in the sunshine– the cheapest ticket to wherever, or “from edge of zone 6 to xxx, return”.

    That allows me to take advantage of my Old Fogey’s London area travel pass, impossible with the machine outside the station, and just pay the extra for the out of London bit.

    It also occurs to me that the presence of real live people on stations allows the travelling public to be safer, and less worried about travelling.

    Vandalism increases where there is no live person.

    The cost of vandalism on just one evening can wipe out the annual cost of the salary of a ticket office person.

    A gate attendant is working in the open air. If they get subjected to abuse, they really need the presence of a ticket office person on site.

    A ticket office person is more secure, behind their screen and locked door.

    No doubt, it is a case of horses for courses. Some places are safer and free of a.s.b., others not. Risk assessements come into play.

    On the rural section of the Tattenham Corner line, ticket offices are staffed at peak times only. They are there at the busy times only.

    It would be totally mad to axe the all-day and evening ticket office staff in busier locations.

  6. Andrew Pelling says:

    Ticket office closures locally: Carshalton, Carshalton Beeches, Cheam, Coulsdon South, Coulsdon Town, East Croydon, Kenley, Norbury, Purley, Purley Oaks, Reedham, Riddlesdown, South Croydon, Sutton, Waddon, Wallington, Whyteleafe, Woodmansterne.

  7. Lewis White says:

    Thanks Andrew, Yes, these proposals are short-sighted / stupid.

  8. Ian Kierans says:


    Phasing out offices on the basis of the number of tickets they sell is not taking all their purpose and value into account. It also displays a cavalier disregard for pasenger safety by those doing so, which I am sure is not their intention.

    I am mostly concerned with the Government not conducting a better and more detailed look at this proposal and all the impacts direct and indirect. Clearly also not involving or seeking the views of it’s own regulators the ORR and the EHRC as apparant from this statement last Friday.

    On Friday evening, the ORR informed us that it “has not seen any plans or given assurances on any matter connected with [the closures].” The EHRC also confirmed that it had been excluded from these discussions despite recently meeting with the Department for Transport (DfT) about railway destaffing. Experts believe that “this alone raises serious questions about whether the DfT has been following due process regarding its public sector equality duty.” They say: “Unless the ORR acts immediately, the process will go forward without adequate equality assurances, and without the necessary retail and accessibility mitigations in place.”

    If all I have read from those reports is true then this government is still clearly not learning any lessons at all.

    This does little to improve the Conservatives reputation in the country, let alone the polls.

    The DfT has always had a difficult portfolio and always at the mercy of budgetary constraints.
    But there is a bad whiff and an appearance that factual analysis has been sacrificed for other purposes?

    Does anyone not find that the Governement dictating operational tactic’s to private companies strange?.

    Is there a similarity to how Khan was delivered an ultimation regarding funding?
    Are they faced with the threat of reductions of subsidy or other dire financial reality and this is what they require from the Government to assist with balancing their books? Is this to enable profits to keep going to shareholders?. After all they are feeling the pinch now too.

    It does appear that both TOCs and DfT may up to their necks in something and clearly a lot of information is not released. Perhaps if a full and comprehensive analysis is done ad published everyone could ahve a real meaningful response to the consultation – but at prsent this does not look even remotely like a decision in the best interests of public transportation within Great Britain.

  9. derek thrower says:

    This is the proposal of operating with ticket offices.
    “Under the plans, if a passenger was unable to purchase a ticket, they would be able to buy one during the journey, at a ticket office en-route or at their destination, the RDG said”
    Why bother buying tickets any longer? There is a good chance of travelling for free under this latest piece of anarchic nonsense. Think of all the security and staff required to enforce this to make sure revenue is not lost.

  10. Sarah Bird says:

    I am mobility impaired ,following a ruptured brain tumour and stroke for life. As a result I cannot travel easily and like many passengers I need the support of all the train workers to include the ticket offices. Their advice ie platforms stations I can access ,is invaluable. What about the blind ,dementia , autistic and tourists to name just a few passengers who also need support ?What about passengers who do not own a smart phone? It is short sighted and unacceptable. Far better to pay the staff properly and not the shareholders or foreign companies who own many of the companies. The profits the companies make are estimated to be in the billions . I stand firmly with the unions. Many of the stations on the new Elizabeth line as a mobility impaired passenger, I cannot even access. Many of the platforms are not even level so without the ticket office staff how would a passenger know in advance where to alight?

  11. Anthony Miller says:

    Interesting how they’ve cling onto the old BR logo decades after privatisation…

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