Train ticket offices have hit the headlines again, with rumoured Tube ticket office closures in London. When you’re travelling by train would you like to see staff in ticket offices or out on platforms?
The last time we debated train ticket office closures here on Which? Conversation, the opinion was split, with Mark telling us:
‘It’s very rare that I queue up to talk to the ticket office, and if I do, it’s only because one of the machines isn’t working.’
And yet David Lewis said he sees great value in ticket offices:
‘Closing train ticket offices would be a major blow for myself as a wheelchair user. I frequently use the train and cannot get on without assistance. I cannot reach the ticket machines to buy a ticket and furthermore I have been told the lift will not be switched on when the ticket office is closed.’
Staff-free train stations
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I presume no-one really wants an entirely staff-free railway.
London’s Docklands Light Railway comes close to being staff-free, but it has a relatively simple Oyster ticketing system and a mainly self-contained network. There are also often staff members on the trains despite there not being a need for drivers.
However, once you’re into the interconnected complexities of the rest of London’s transport network, including the mainline rail stations, then there are certainly plenty of issues to be faced. More and more people are travelling by train, the self-service ticket machines aren’t always up to scratch, there’s a complex and opaque fares system, and we’ve found poor advice from train ticket offices.
Although some of these issues may be improved with more manned ticket offices, would you prefer it if staff were out and about on platforms where passengers are? That is, to sell tickets, give advice, reassure and so on. Would that make a difference to how you feel about public transport, and how likely you would be to use it?
The question of whether staff should be on platforms rather than in offices reminds me of this passage from Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island (1995):
‘For reasons that elude rational explanation, British Rail always puts the destinations on the front of the train, which would be awfully handy if passengers were waiting on the tracks, but not perhaps ideal for those boarding it from the side.’
Train companies have since moved destinations to the side of trains where passengers can see them. The question is whether passengers would prefer staff to be on platforms where they could see them? Or does it not matter where they are, as long as there are staff to help you?
Could you manage without manned train ticket offices?
No - I need to access a train ticket office (57%, 335 Votes)
Maybe - I wouldn't mind if staff were deployed elsewhere eg on platforms (30%, 175 Votes)
Yes - I'm happy with just self-service ticket machines (13%, 77 Votes)
Total Voters: 587