Some local railway ticket offices could close

TWELVE West Sussex railway station ticket offices have been earmarked for closure, being replaced by ticket machines.

The dozen stations - Angmering, Arundel, Billingshurst, Bosham, Christ’s Hospital, Durrington, Ford, Goring, Ifield, Langley Green, Littlehampton and Southwick - are amongst 675 small staffed stations throughout the country on the hitlist, which typically have only one member of staff in attendance at any one time.

They have been included in the McNulty Report, looking at rail value for money, which proposes that all Category E stations should have their staffing removed.

Details of the report were revealed on Monday by the trade union Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association. The findings of the report are to be examined as part of a Government review.

The union described the cuts as ‘draconian’ and said they would leave rail passengers with unmanned ‘less secure’ stations and passengers would be forced to use ticket machines that are usually more expensive.

It said the proposals had come as a ‘double whammy’ on the back of plans to increase fares by 25 per cent.

There is a widespread belief that the loss of ticket offices would cause a great deal of inconvenience to rail travellers, who would no longer have the opportunity to ask advice about rail travel plans, as well as the chance to discuss cheaper options of tickets.

There is a likelihood that the ticket machines will only accept debit or credit cards, with passengers losing the ability to pay cash for their tickets.

Critics have also said that even a token presence at a these railways stations means there is someone on hand to deal with an emergency, or customer queries or problems, as well as to keep the station clean and tidy.

A union official said: “This is simply a way of saving money, without a thought to the long-term effects. Passengers will lose the assurance of assistance in the event of an accident or assault.

“The stations themselves, without supervision, will be left wide open to vandalism and unwelcome intruders. There will be no security at all for passengers.”

Rail users have been warned that they can run the risk of being issued with a penalty fare if a ticket machine breaks down, plus the complexities of fares and restrictions, especially where choices involve different train operators leave it open for mistakes.

Anyone travelling with a ticket for the wrong company is inevitably treated as a ‘ticket dodger’.

Buying tickets cheaper on line has been cited as one reason for the proposed ticket office closures, but union leaders say it is merely a cost-cutting measure by ‘wiping out’ staff at the stations in question.