On Monday the Department for Transport issued a press release entitled ‘Passenger benefits secured through ticket office decision’. you can see it here: http://www.dft.gov.uk/news/press-releases/dft-press-20120917b/
So you would think that the DfT had made a decision on ticket offices that benefitted passengers obviously. We knew what was coming and that it dealt with London Midland’s request to shut several rail station ticket offices and reduce hours in many others.
So what had the DfT done? why fantastic news, only 4 tickets offices were closing and 5 would stay open albeit with massively reduced hours – for example, celebrate that Jewellery Quarter station office will not completely close! it will be open now on Friday 4-6pm and Saturday 11am-1pm and 3-5pm. Yes, the good news for Jewellery Quarter is that the station office will go from being open 7 days a week for the whole day to now 6 hours over 2 days. Now that is good news, thank you DfT, Norman Baker and London Midland.
The new 29 ticket vending machines for passengers were of course a huge relief that are a fantastic new benefit for passengers to replace rail staff.
The defence that came from DfT and London Midland was as limp and weak as you would expect – the decision was justified on coast and efficiency – rate of ticket sales per hour solely. Station staff do far more than just sell tickets, they provide information and reassurance, safety and security for passengers and stations.
This is a classic example of the private train operators cutting costs to make profit. These obligations to man stations are set out and agreed in the franchise so DfT are basically allowing London Midland to change/lessen what they had promised so that they can continue to make money rather than provide the promised service as agreed in the franchise. Here is a good reason for taking stations away from train operators for starters, immediately, right now and handing them to local transport authorities to run.
What was even more galling was that some of the media bought the nonsense sold to them by DfT and London Midland – yes, they actually thought this was good news for passengers. Sometimes you despair. I fear though that things are going to get worse still and we will see even more of this nonsense on stilts being sold to us.