Rail stations may lose cheap tickets

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The Independent Online

Up to 1,600 railway stations could be stripped of their ability to sell cheap pre-book tickets under proposals put forward by train operators. The bargain fares would only be available at main stations or by the use of the telephone or the Internet.

Up to 1,600 railway stations could be stripped of their ability to sell cheap pre-book tickets under proposals put forward by train operators. The bargain fares would only be available at main stations or by the use of the telephone or the Internet.

The suggestion, tabled by the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc), could further downgrade many smaller stations and those in rural areas. It could also mean companies could take staff away from such locations.

News of the plans yesterday led to widespread protests from passenger groups, who want the full ticket service available in as many locations as possible and also want to see more frontline staff.

If the association gets its way, sophisticated equipment capable of booking pre-pay tickets would be installed at a restricted number of large stations. Only a finite number of advance tickets can be issued for any service so the equipment would need to be able to find out the availability of seats and would therefore be relatively expensive.

But a spokesman for Atoc said the proposals would not affect local stations' ability to sell long-distance or season tickets and said some small ticket offices only sold about a dozen advance tickets a year.

He said: "The idea is to clarify the status of stations so that passengers know what they can get and where they can get it. This is part of a consultation process." Anthony Smith, national director of the Rail Passengers' Council, said: "It seems extraordinary in this day and age that they want to send people away who are trying to give them money. What other retailer would do this?"

Tom Winsor, Rail Regulator, said: "Any such proposal would require my approval. I have no intention of approving anything which is detrimental to the interests of passengers."

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