One in four railway ticket offices could close

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The Independent Online

One in four railway ticket offices in England and Wales could close, with the loss of over 1,000 jobs, under recommendations in a Government-commissioned report "buried" in the small print, a leading transport union warned today.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association said it had discovered a "hit list" of 675 stations which could be left unstaffed, spread across the country, including 265 in London and the South East and 114 in the North West.

The union said the list appears in a report drawn up by Sir Roy McNulty on how to achieve savings in the railway industry, but was not published in the executive summary.

TSSA officials said they only discovered the recommendation to scrap hundreds of ticket offices when they read the full report, which runs to hundreds of pages.

Publishing the full list of planned closures, TSSA leader Gerry Doherty called on Transport Secretary Philip Hammond to reject the cutbacks, warning that passengers, especially women, will feel less safe travelling, and will find it more difficult to buy tickets.

The report recommends the replacement of ticket offices with machines, a trend which is growing throughout the railway industry.

Mr Doherty said: "This is a double whammy for millions of passengers. Last month they were told that fares will rise by 25% over the next three years, and they are now set to lose one in four ticket offices.

"Not only are unmanned stations less secure, tickets bought from machines are usually more expensive. Philip Hammond should come to the Dispatch Box in the next few days and give a clear undertaking that he is going to ditch these draconian cuts in services to passengers.

The union is launching an "SOS-Save our Station ticket offices" campaign which will tour the party conferences over the next four weeks urging MPs to save local ticket offices in their constituencies.

Mr Doherty accused the Transport Secretary of being on a "political suicide mission" given that 40% of the stations on the list are in the Tory heartlands of the South East.

"He seems determined to test commuter support for the Tories to destruction by, firstly, massively hiking fares, which are already the most expensive in Europe, and on top of that shutting nearly 700 ticket offices."

The Government is expected to respond fully next month to the report, which maintained that the railway industry could make savings of £1 billion a year.

The TSSA said those on the list were all listed as "category E" stations, serving fewer than 250,000 passengers a year and where ticket offices open for less than 10 hours a day, usually in the morning and evening peak hours.

Officials said at least one or two ticket office staff would be employed at the stations, warning that more than 1,000 jobs could be axed if the closures go ahead.

Train companies have to get permission from the Department for Transport to close a ticket office, but the union said the report was recommending that this requirement should be scrapped.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union, said: "This information on the shocking scale of the ticket office massacre is a wake-up call to the public as the Government prepares to reveal their formal response to the McNulty rail review.

"These cuts would de-staff stations and turn the rail network into a criminals' paradise, and that's why we are uniting workers and passengers in a massive campaign of resistance."

PA

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