A quarter of train station ticket offices face closure, warns union

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The Independent Online

A transport union has warned that a quarter of manned ticket offices at railway stations in England and Wales could close – if the recommendations of a report that claims the cost of running UK rail transport could be reduced by £1bn are heeded.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) said that it had discovered a "hit list" of 675 stations that could be left unmanned in Sir Roy McNulty's report on achieving savings in the railway industry. The report recommends the replacement of staffed ticket offices with machines at 265 stations in London and the South East and 114 stations in the North West. The union said 1,000 jobs would be lost were this to happen.

The report, Realising the Potential of GB Rail, which was commissioned by Gordon Brown's government and published in May, has attracted strong criticism from TSSA.

The union is calling on the Transport Secretary Philip Hammond to reject the recommendations, which they have called "draconian cuts in services to passengers".

Mr Hammond said: "We are currently considering the findings of Sir Roy McNulty's independent report and any of his proposed changes to rail fares or ticketing will be examined as part of a government review." TSSA's findings are likely to spark clashes between train operators and transport unions over the most effective way to run National Rail.

The Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc), the private body that represents Britain's 23 train operating companies, said the recommendations were consistent with a shift in the way people buy train tickets.

"If you look at ... the last five years, there have been big increases in the use of ticket machines. The industry needs to cut costs as a way of limiting future fare rises," its spokesman said.

But TSSA said that Atoc's claim to be seeking ways to limit fare rises was "complete hogwash" as it had "asked for a 30 per cent increase in fares over the last three years".