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Ticket offices at hundreds of British train stations could be closed

If Transport Secretary Grant Schapps has his way then ticket offices could be closed at hundreds of British train stations 

Under a post-pandemic revamp of Britain’s railways that is being planned by Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, hundreds of train station ticket offices could be closed. In light of the £16billion pandemic bailout, cutting staff costs appears to be one of his main plans to enable him to reduce taxpayer funding.

Such a move would undoubtedly bring the might of the transport unions down on Ms Schapps, with the subsequent threat of industrial action. Ticket offices and the presence of staff at stations are an integral part of keeping a train station functioning argues the union.

They point out that not everybody has access to a computer for online bookings, and that it could also isolate vulnerable groups, including pregnant women, the elderly, and the disabled.

In 2023, the running of the railways will change hands. Network Rail will be replaced by the Great British Railways. This entity will ultimately be responsible for network planning, timetables, ticketing, and of course, the stations and train tracks.

The franchised system that was in operation with the advent of the pandemic collapsed due to the reduction in the use of railways. New ‘Passenger Service Contracts’ will replace them, with trains still being operated by private companies.

Last November, the British government announced an investment of £360million to radically reform retailing, ticketing, and fares, as part of their Integrated Rail Plan. Over the next three years, more than 700 stations across the country will see contactless ‘tap-in and tap-out’ ticketing systems installed.

Unions fear this move will lead to a reduction of staff required to man ticket offices, as the ‘more convenient and modern digital ticketing’ system comes into play.

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport commented that a modernisation plan ‘could include changing what some staff at stations do, or how they do it, to ensure passengers get the services they deserve’.

They added, ‘Staff will always provide face-to-face services on the railways, which can be crucial for those who need additional support and cannot, or do not want to, use contactless or mobile tickets’.

Meanwhile, the General Secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, Manuel Cortes, warned yesterday, Saturday 12, ‘Grant Shapps needs to realise that this daft plan is likely to result in the threat of compulsory redundancies, and if that happens we will be issuing ballots for industrial action”.

He continued, ‘Closing ticket offices will not only be opposed by the unions but the public at large. Shapps must stand up to the faceless accountants in the Treasury because a properly run and fully functioning railway is vital in building an economic recovery from Covid’.

‘The government should share their plans in detail with us and commenters now if they are so sure that closing ticket offices and taking £2billion a year out of our railways is the best way forward. I’d strongly urge them to reconsider’, concluded Mr Cortes, as reported by dailymail.co.uk.

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]

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