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Thursday 26th July 2012 | 08:52
TUC press release
Unions and passengers fear for the future of ticket offices on London Midland line
Campaigners from Action for Rail are holding a day of protest today amidst fears that the Department for Transport (DfT) will give the green light to the closure or severely-reduced opening hours of 86 of the 90 stations operated by London Midland.
Rail unions say that the governmentâs recent fares and ticketing consultation included leading questions hinting that ticket office closures would be inevitable as part of its wider plans for cost-cutting across the rail industry.
Unions are also warning that the DfT is considering removing the regulations that require train operating companies to consult with passengers when making changes to ticket office opening hours.
Last week the DfT indicated that it was planning to make changes to the Ticketing and Settling Arrangement as part of its âred tape challenge. These non-statutory regulations currently ensure that passengers are consulted if a company wants to close or make major changes to ticket offices across its network.
Removing the requirement to consult passengers and giving Train Operating Companies more freedom to close and reduce ticket office opening hours would lessen the ability of passengers to have a say over ticketing arrangements on their rail service, say unions.
Action for Rail is using today to alert passengers to the possible closures. So far 18,000 passengers have registered their hostility to the London Midland proposals, and opposition has also been expressed by Centro, the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority, and Richard Burden MP (Birmingham Northfield).
In April 2012, unions uncovered emails revealing that DfT staff were likely to give approval for an unspecified number of closures on the London Midland line, which operates train services throughout England, connecting London, the Midlands and the North West.
Additional documents leaked by the unions show that London Midland stands to make an additional £1.25m profit as a result of ticket office changes, while continuing to receive subsidy from the taxpayer of over £100m a year. Last year, London Midland increased fare prices by more than seven per cent for many of its passengers.
Speaking on behalf of the Action for Rail campaign, TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: Rail passengers are being hit by closures to ticket offices which will leave many stations deserted and devoid of staff. In addition the government looks set to make it easier for train operators to ignore the wishes of their passengers by reducing consultation requirements.
The public wants the help, reassurance and safety that rail staff provide. Many thousands of commuters and other rail users will be extremely unhappy to learn that the company is banking on closing or cutting back on the opening hours of ticket offices almost all London Midland stations, yet is content to make profits on the back of fare hikes and millions of pounds of public subsidy.
Campaign for Better Transport Chief Executive Stephen Joseph said: Passengers want to see staff at stations so they feel safe and they know that they can get help if they need it. At the moment, the only requirements on staffing at stations are ticket office opening hours.
Cutting back on staffing might save money but could also mean that fewer people choose to take the train. The Government needs to ensure stations are safe and welcoming rather than leaving decisions like this to individual train companies.