Posted 10th April 2012 | 13 Comments

Revealed: the DfT's plans to close ticket offices

THE DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT has been revealed to be planning to close some ticket offices at smaller stations as part of its plan to reduce railway costs, even though a consultation is under way. 

But leaked emails reveal that it is holding back on admitting the closures, while negotiations continue with at least one operator. The DfT is also hoping to make the operators seem responsible for the cutbacks, which have already sparked a wave of public opposition.

The emails, which were revealed by the BBC and have been seen by Railnews, disclose that talks are well under way with London Midland, and that 'the Minister' (Theresa Villiers) has given her approval.

However, in public the Department is still maintaining that no decisions have been made. One of the emails, from a member of DfT staff in the Department's Rail Fares and Ticketing Review unit, even praises a press officer for implying that the operators are responsible, saying that: 'your way of slipping in there that the initiative comes from TOCs not us is very neat'.

When questioned about the emails, transport minister Norman Baker said the civil servant concerned was 'junior' and had jumped the gun. He maintained that no decisions had been made. 

When she launched the Command Paper at the end of March, transport secretary Justine Greening said she was targeting railway costs of up to £3.5 billion a year. The Paper followed Sir Roy McNulty's recommendations that operators should take a critical look at station staffing, and in particular that the ticket offices at Category E stations should be closed. He also said that the opening hours at Category D stations should be reduced.

This proposal, which is proving to be one of the most controversial from McNulty, was not included in the summary report given to the media when the document was published last May, and only appears on page 208 of the 'detailed report', which was issued afterwards.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Ken Usher, Birmingham

    The virtual weekly updates have been sent out to all stations by the Company Council representatives or their deputies. The fact is that the LM Station re-org' proposals still sit on the desk of the Secretary of State for Transport Justine Greening.
    RMT is deinitely not in any relationship of collusion with the Government or the TOC's nor would we ever be unless it was for the benefit of the membership and infurtherance of our aims and objectives as a trades union. Once there is a decision from the DfT then you can rest assured their will be communications being issued and meetings being held.

  • Jonah, Birmingham

    To Dave Birmingham and Ken Usher Birmingham

    Dave I doubt very much that the union is in league with the DFT and TOC's but you do make a valid point when you say information from our union reps tends to arrive slowly. I like you have found out more of what is happening from sites like Railnews and patiently searching via Google.

    Ken I think you should also realise that the majority of us RMT members do not "moan or gripe" from the sidelines. I personally put myself at risk of confrontation with my managers by sneaking petition forms out while selling tickets to get many many signatures that contributed to the 18000+ sent to Passenger Focus. I'm confident that the majority of my colleagues whose jobs are at risk also did the same. Hardly sitting on the sidelines I would have thought. Also Ken we are not updated on a weekly basis but would appreciate it if we were. A simple email will suffice.

  • Bill Porter, Birmingham

    Since this announcement was leaked we have now received a response from LMs head henchman who flatly denies this leak as being factual. I know who i believe!

  • Ken Usher, Birmingham

    Dave, Birmingham,
    Who do you think orchastrated the 18000+ signature to the petition and letters of objection to London Midland's proposals? Who do you think keeps station staff briefed on a virtual weekly basis that LM proposals still sit with the DfT? Who do you think have arranged postcard distributions and other campaigns against McNulty's plans? Who do you think will be leading the fight to save jobs if LM & McNulty get the nod off the DfT? = Attend your Branch meeting or contact one of your elected reps or full-time officer who will enlighten you on all matters.
    Instead of moaning or griping from the sidelines then join the activists in opposing the plans of LM/McNulty - you will be welcomed on each occassion - after all it is "your job that is under threat" that we (RMT) are fighting to save - join us in that fight!
    Dont hold your breath waiting for the mainstream press or the specialist trade papers to fight the good fight because you will be blue in the face.

  • Bill porter, Birmingh

    We have been lied to since day one when the proposals were announced to the booking office staff . LM are ONLY interested in making a profit for their shareholders the customers who use the trains and the people who man the ticket offices are as usual the ones to get shafted. LM should now have their franchise removed as they clearly are not a fit and proper company who have clearly failed to meet their franchise commitments .

  • Dave, Birmingham

    Thank god for
    I am a railway employee who's job is at risk. I am also a member of one of the biggest unions operating within the rail industry and yet receive almost no information from them with regards to this current situation. One could not blame me for thinking my union eats and drinks from the same plate and cup as the DFT and the train operating companies. Of course this would be something I would only allege to be true, however, I'm sure if 12000 people suddenly cancelled their union subscription our sleeping representatives will suddenly wake up.and play their part in trying to Save our Stations.
    Again, thanks to Railnews for keeping us informed

  • Concerned Commuter, London

    What a disgrace - what about disabled passengers? Wheelchair users? Who will help out people who need a hand to get onto trains? What about safety in the evenings? How many people will get mugged at darkly lit unstaffed stations in evenings? We pay through the nose for our train fares - we could at least have some staff on hand to help!

  • Dave, birmingham

    dear Lutz, London

    Proof reading is essential before posting your comments.

    Tell the 12000 or more people who will lose their jobs as a result of proposed ticket office closures and also the removal of guards from trains that they are making a mountain out of a mole hill

  • Steve Alston, Crewe

    You only need to look at the state of Manchester's Metrolink platforms and Northern Rail's GM area stations - almost all unstaffed. Drunken teens smoking weed hanging round chucking bricks, assaults, attacks..... would you feel happy if your missus was waiting there at 9pm?

    Immediately next door, Merseyrail has booking offices first train to last train. No such problems there.

  • Lutz, London

    Trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Contingency planning does not constitute a final decision. I many cases the closure of ticket offices will of no great loss due to shifts in technology.

  • Geraint Griffiths, Chester

    There should be more staff at our stations, not less. Considering how much the price of my season ticket has increased this year you'd think we could see improvements instead of cut backs. And I still don't get a seat every morning. What a joke.

  • Billy Johnstone, Beith, UK

    Same old tories. Enough said!

  • Chris Reynell, Longstock, Hampshire.

    Why cut back on something useful?
    The ticket office staff also sell tickets not available or hard to find on ticket machines, help with enquiries and add to the sense of security.
    Our local station, Winchester, is great during the day. Once the ticket offices close in the early evening, it becomes soulless and the platforms are linked by a grotty public subway.
    Rail passenger numbers are rising, surely the franchised operators can keep its stations safe and friendly until the last train at night.