24 March 2016
RMT Press Office:
As London Travel Watch rejects Govia Thameslink ticket office closures RMT calls on Government to scrap plans
In light of the fact that London Travelwatch has now clearly told Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) that it “was not able to support” the ticket office change proposals, rail union RMT today called on Claire Perry, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, to do likewise. The Minister made it crystal clear in a parliamentary debate on this issue on the 16th March, that on this issue “Nothing can happen without the Department’s say-so”. RMT now calls on her to reject these proposals in their entirety. That will reassure all the MP’s and passengers who spoke out against the disastrous plans by GTR to close over eighty ticket offices.
She went on to say in that parliamentary debate:
“I will commit today to having a deep-dive conversation with my officials and the franchise so that we can get to grips with where it is on the roll-out of the Key card and how that relates to ticket office closing hours. If we are going to do smart ticketing, let us do it right”
Mick Cash RMT General Secretary said:
“Getting it right by passengers means listening to their overwhelming public rejection of the GTR ticket office wipe out and that can only mean scrapping these plans completely. The Government should note the cross-party opposition to the ticket off closure plans across the South East and Claire Perry should announce swiftly that the GTR plans are history.”
“These plans are driven by the desire to de-staff our railways in the quest for profit and would unleash a wave of ticket office carnage across rail franchises that are already seen as the basket-cases of Britain’s privatised railway network. It is clear that Govia couldn’t give two hoots about passenger services, jobs and safety and are prepared to milk these routes for every single penny that they can extract regardless of what the travelling public think of them.
“The voice of staff and the travelling public has rung out loud and clear through the RMT campaign and the fight to scrap the whole programme of 83 ticket office downgrades and closures continues.”
Note to editors:
Below are a number of comments made by MPs during the Parliamentary debate:
“My constituents have a sense of wonderment…. They wonder what can have possessed the train companies to think that now is a good time to close ticket offices outside peak times.”
“I speak for a number of hon. Members here when asking those responsible for ticket offices to think again long and hard before proceeding with these closures, which I believe should not take place. In particular, I ask them, in the current environment of huge uncertainty faced by passengers and a poor service, how on earth reducing customer interface can possibly be in the interests of either passengers or the companies”
Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con) MP
“I have also been approached by constituents who have raised concerns about Govia’s consultation on ticket office closures…. The consultation was poorly advertised, with little publicity about the proposals at the stations concerned…. Govia needs to be absolutely clear with passengers about what its plans might mean. Will commuters still be able to arrange season ticket sales, railcards, photocards, advanced discount fares and refunds at a station without a ticket office”.
“My hon. Friends…… made eloquent points about ticket office closures, which I believe are wrong and hasty. The consultation process has been too short. I implore those responsible to think again”
Joan Ryan (Enfield North) (Lab)
The ticket office closures add insult to injury, with closures of the majority of 84 station ticket offices across the south-east….. I have had lots of emails, and some 2,300 people have signed a petition in 10 days.
Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con)
Govia is currently proposing to close ticket offices, which is just the latest attempt to cut costs and drive up profits. In my view, a public service should reinvest surpluses and not simply distribute them to shareholders….I detest machines and much prefer purchasing my ticket from a person…. Not all passengers can use a machine because of disabilities or medical reasons. Govia has a legal duty to ensure equality of access, particularly for people with visual impairments, dyslexia or learning difficulties
Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab)
I also recognise what the hon. Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins) said about the importance of there still being a human presence at ticket offices…. My constituents have been telling me about what they believe is the folly of ticket office closures. Of course we can have a more efficient system, and there will be some stations where ticket offices, perhaps with new technology, are a thing of the past, but at the moment it is not appropriate to go forward with such a programme.
Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con):
I concur with comments that have been made about ticket offices. Many of my residents who are elderly or who have problems getting access to the ticket machines would find the removal of ticket offices a great burden.
Dr Matthew Offord (Hendon) (Con)
Despite all the recent talk and excuses, my constituents across Wealden, who commute on the misery line previously known as the Uckfield line, still have to put up with delays, timetable changes, short-formed trains, extended engineering works, overcrowding, unsatisfactory compensation processes, nonsensical bus replacements, poor communication and—the latest nail in the coffin—potential ticket office closures.
Nusrat Ghani (Wealden) (Con)
On ticket offices, it is totally and utterly unacceptable that the three stations in my constituency affected by the franchise will be losing more than 13 staff. It is all well and good telling people to go to the machine, but the problem is that the machines are not giving people the best prices that they are entitled to.
Mr Chuka Umunna (Streatham) (Lab)
Finally, I was heartened to hear many Members from across the territory express, on behalf of their constituents, the need for proper staffing levels to be maintained in our railway stations. Many people spoke about difficulties in accessing ticket machines and computer systems. Often that was beyond their capabilities, whether because of information technology illiteracy, learning difficulties or other issues. That strong message came from Members’ contributions today. Will the Minister comment on how we can secure those reassurances that all members of the travelling public need? They need to see that human interface, and sadly it is clearly lacking in the operation of the franchise.
Andy McDonald (Middlesborough) Shadow Rail Minister ( Lab)