Posted 6th July 2023 | 4 Comments

Ticket office axe: fears grow of job losses

 A rail union leader has revealed that train operators have served the first legal warning of redundancies as part of the closures of most station ticket offices in England.

The plans, unveiled yesterday, involve many former ticket office staff being given new responsibilities, which could involve working on station concourses to help passengers use ticket machines and answer their questions.

Some operators, including Great Western Railway and South Western Railway, plan to close all their ticket offices. Others will provide Travel Centres (Southeastern) or Customer Information Centres (Greater Anglia) at the busiest stations. Most of the changes are expected to have happened by the end of next year.

But uncertainty remains over job security, and a union leader has accused the Rail Delivery Group of ‘reneging’ on a deal which was agreed earlier this year.

Speaking on BBC Radio Surrey on 6 July, TSSA interim general secretary Peter Pendle said he had received ‘half a dozen communications from the various train operating companies, South Western Trains and GWR included, issuing Section 188 notices which is the notice you have to give as a first stage to consult on redundancies’.

He also said he was concerned about the prospects for the displaced staff in a few years from now, when consultations about further changes would not be required: ‘They can just do what they want two or three years down the line. Our belief is they’ll just come along and remove those people.

‘At the beginning of the year we were taking industrial action to oppose the closure of ticket offices. We reached an agreement with the Rail Delivery Group and the train operating companies. We said we oppose the changes, but are pragmatic enough to know there are going to be changes so we won’t continue to take industrial action and we will engage with you on how we introduce those changes.

‘That was a deal; that was an agreement we reached. Yesterday I got called into a meeting with the Rail Delivery Group who said: “Sorry, we’re going to renege on this agreement. We’re going to chuck it out of the window, and we’re going to go ahead and make the changes.”

‘How can we trust the Rail Delivery Group and the train operating companies if they can just turn round and renege on an agreement like that overnight, with no notice? Two or three years down the line, you’re going to see those people on stations gone.’

Railnews asked the Rail Delivery Group to respond. It said: ‘The agreement reached with the TSSA in February 2023 were a set of agreed national principles to update the railway for how passengers use it today. However, unfortunately, due to the nature of collective bargaining, the agreement reached with TSSA can’t be progressed for just the TSSA.

‘The RMT leadership has not only refused to put a pay deal to its members which would give all staff a pay rise as well as giving job security guarantees, but they are also holding up pay rises and job security guarantees for hundreds of TSSA members. Our offer remains on the table should the RMT wish to continue national discussions so we can secure a thriving long-term future for the railways.’

Which ticket offices might stay open?

Avanti West Coast said its offices at some larger stations would be kept ‘short-term’ for passengers with complicated ticket queries which cannot be resolved on line or at a ticket machine. It said these stations are those managed by Network Rail at London Euston, Manchester Piccadilly, Birmingham New Street and Glasgow Central, where AWC runs the ticket offices, and also Preston and Carlisle.

c2c All 25 offices are ‘at risk of closure’ except London Fenchurch Street, Benfleet, Basildon, Grays and Southend Central. These offices continue, but opening hours will change.

Chiltern Railways plans to close all its ticket offices. 

East Midlands Railway ticket offices will continue to be provided at Derby, Leicester, Lincoln, London St Pancras International, Nottingham and Sheffield.

Govia Thameslink Railway (Great Northern, Southern and Thameslink) plans to close all ticket offices apart from Gatwick Airport.

Greater Anglia plans to open Customer Information Centres at London Liverpool Street, Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich, Norwich, Stansted Airport and Cambridge. Of the remaining 47 stations, some would have changes to staffing hours, but no presently staffed station will become unstaffed.

Great Western Railway is proposing to close all its ticket offices by the end of next year, including London Paddington. It has already closed summer-only ticket windows at Looe, Newquay and St Ives.

LNER said it proposed to maintain ticket offices at Edinburgh, Newcastle, York, Doncaster, Peterborough and London King’s Cross, ‘which will continue to offer the same range of products and opening times’.

Northern is proposing to close 131 ticket offices and change the opening hours at 18. It also operates a further 318 stations which do not have ticket offices. Stations which would retain ticket offices are Barrow-in-Furness, Blackburn, Blackpool North, Bolton, Bradford Interchange, Glossop, Harrogate, Hartlepool, Leeds, Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Oxford Road, Manchester Victoria, Rochdale, St Helens Central, Salford Crescent, Skipton, Warrington Central and Wigan Wallgate. Exceptionally, Hartlepool is presently closed on Sundays, but would open under the new proposals. The opening hours at the other 17 offices will mostly be reduced.  

Southeastern said it serves 180 stations, and runs 142 ticket offices. It is proposing to open Travel Centres at its 14 busiest stations (Ashford International, Bromley South, Canterbury West, Dartford, Dover Priory, Hastings, London Bridge, London Charing Cross, London St Pancras International, London Victoria, Margate, Rochester, Sevenoaks and Tonbridge). All other offices will close, but staff will return to 14 stations which are currently unstaffed because of vacancies.

South Western Railway is planning to close all its ticket offices.

TransPennine Express plans to close the ticket offices at 14 of the 16 staffed stations it operates. Ticket offices will remain open at Huddersfield and Manchester Airport.

West Midlands Trains (London NorthWestern and West Midlands Railway) said ‘all ticket offices in their current form would close over the next three years’ but that it would introduce a number of ‘hub stations’ offering ‘enhanced retail facilities and customer support’. The ‘hubs’ are proposed at Birmingham Snow Hill, Milton Keynes Central, Northampton, Nuneaton, Sutton Coldfield, University, Walsall, Watford Junction, Wolverhampton and Worcester Foregate Street.

Note: CrossCountry and the open access operators Grand Central, Hull Trains and Lumo do not manage any stations.

Reader Comments:

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

  • Jake Yeates, Birmingham

    I urge you not to close any ticket offices. I represent hundreds of people with disabilities, who st the Midlands. The vast majority of them have access needs (visual impairments, hearing impairments and autism - and many also use wheelchairs). All of these require assistance from the staff members at ticket offices in train stations, every time they travel. The shutting of ticket of offices would render many such people (and many elderly people) - (around the country) shut off from travelling for work, for leisure, for education and and for vital appointments, etc.
    The train service is a vital, great way to connect all of our communities. Please don't render such travel any more difficult than it already is!
    Thank you.

  • John Porter, Kettering

    I am happy with the idea of REDUCING ticket office hours, as long as passengers can board a train and have railcard reductions on fares, rather than risking full fares potentially with a fixed surcharge.
    A single shift opening at important, but secondary stations such as Kettering would be sufficient if adequately publicised.
    My experience is that important, but secondary stations have at least 2 members of staff on the station for most of the day, but could manage with fewer multi-tasking staff for around a quarter of that time.

  • Richard Harris, Stoke-on-Trent

    So if DfT want people out of ticket Offices to be customer facing on platforms. Why are redundancy notices being considered?

  • king arthur, buckley

    It's very sad news that yet another part of life succumbs to the 'please download the app' infestation, especially when purchasing rail tickets on certain routes can be insanely complex, even for those in the know. And I do love a good ticket office - Dawlish and Whitehaven are/were particular favourites.