I use railway ticket offices myself on a fairly regular basis and do not want to see them disappear.
I know ministerial colleagues are keen to see customer-facing staff on railways and like those whose jobs are about customer service, staff at stations may need to change what they do or how they do it to ensure that passengers get the services they most want and need. Staff will be able to provide a more personal service in future, which can be crucial for those who need additional support at stations and those who cannot or do not want to use contactless or mobile tickets.
The process for train operators to propose any changes to the opening hours of ticket offices or close ticket offices is set out in the Ticketing and Settlement Agreement. The agreement regulates what train operators do in terms of fares ticketing and retailing across the network and requires train operators to put notices at the station advising passengers of any proposals and what any changes could mean for them. If passengers have objections, these can be raised via the passenger bodies (Transport Focus and London Travel Watch).
Applications for changes can be proposed under a Major Change process if:
(a) the change would represent an improvement on current arrangements in terms of quality of service and/or cost effectiveness; and
(b) members of the public would continue to enjoy widespread and easy access to the purchase of rail products, notwithstanding the change.
I believe in making it as easy as possible for passengers across the country to travel on our railways.
More broadly, rail passengers are now able to obtain a smart card or barcode ticket across almost the entire rail network. The Transport Secretary is overhauling Britain's railways, ending the fragmentation of the past and bringing the network under single, national leadership. As I understand it, reforms will include a simplified ticketing system, as well as significant roll-outs of pay as you go, contactless ticketing and digital ticketing on smartphones. Tickets will be available from a single website, ending the current confusing array of train company sites while a single compensation system in England will provide a simple system if things go wrong.
In particular, I welcome a £360 million investment in London-style contactless ticketing across England, which will mean that people automatically get charged the best fare. In total, contactless pay-as-you-go ticketing will be made available to around 700 stations in urban areas, including around 400 in the North.
As modern ticketing and payments methods roll out more widely, the Government will ensure that all passengers are able to buy a ticket including those who need to use cash or do not have access to smartphones or the internet.