Response to GWR Ticket Office Consultation
It is unacceptable for Great Western Railway (GWR) to propose closing ticket offices at the Dawlish and Teignmouth stations. The Newton Abbot station faces the same fate but on an extended timescale, this is still of no comfort.
As per Clause 6-18 of the Ticketing and Settlement Agreement (TSA), changes to the opening hours of ticket offices maybe be made if:
- The change would represent an improvement on current arrangements in terms of quality of service and/or cost effectiveness and
- Members of the public would continue to enjoy widespread and easy access to the purchase of rail products, notwithstanding the change.
I do not believe these criteria have been met.
If the plan is to target stations which least use ticket offices for the proposed first stage of closures between October 2023 and April 2024, then proposing to close Teignmouth and Dawlish’s ticket offices is inconsistent with this justification. 34.4% of tickets sold at Dawlish station and 26.6% of tickets sold at Teignmouth station are sold at the ticket office. These figures are considerably higher than the 15% being used as justification for the proposed changes to ticket offices. The implementation of these proposed changes would not represent an improvement on the current arrangements in terms of quality of service, nor would passengers continue to enjoy widespread and easy access to the purchase of tickets. Many passengers will be digitally excluded from purchasing tickets given the reliability of broadband in such a rural area.
Relying on a machine instead of adequate staffing at entry points outside of peak hours is not a solution. It is an unreasonable expectation to assume that the machine will not break down. Even when they are operable, they are not user friendly or easily usable by those with failing eyesight or restricted mobility. In the event of machine breakdown, would passengers have access to information or assistance on how to plan their journey and purchase their ticket with their preferred, or often only, method? There seems to be a lack of recognition that ticket offices also serve as a source of information and advice for customers, not just for the purchasing of tickets. Travel advice can be complex, and individuals may not be as familiar with the cheapest and fastest routes. This understanding has to be practiced in order to be learned. This is not the proposal on offer.
Use of cash
Those using cash often find themselves being discriminated against as society hurtles towards becoming cashless. 29.8% of total transactions at Dawlish station and 28.4% at Teignmouth stations are paid for in cash. People also find that ticketing machines will take their cash without dispensing a ticket. This creates an unnecessary hindrance to the passengers journey. Will passengers then be asked to purchase a ticket on board the train? I have seen examples onboard GWR services where people are unable to buy food or drink with cash, despite the lack of information for passengers to inform them that cash would not be accepted. Are passengers then expected to take a fine for travelling without a ticket if they wish to pay in cash and are refused? There seems to have been a serious lack of consideration for those that still use cash, something that does not improve the quality of service on offer nor allow for easy access to ticket purchasing.
Access to basic facilities
Removing the opportunity to purchase tickets at a ticket office will have a disproportionately negative impact on passengers’ access to basic facilities. For example, at Newton Abbot station, in my constituency, basic facilities such as waiting rooms and toilets are located on platforms 1, 2 and 3 – which can only be accessed by going through the ticket barriers. Unmanned ticket barriers and precious few options for those wanting to pay with cash means that these customers will be unable to access basic facilities. Redeploying staff from the ticket office behind the gateline onto the platform does little to improve the passengers ability to access the stations facilities.