End of line for ticket offices?

FIVE railway station ticket offices serving the High Peak could face the axe under Government plans to make the UK’s rail network more efficient.

A report commissioned by the Government, and written by Sir Roy McNulty, recommends that a number of measures are taken in order to achieve a 30 per cent efficiency improvement in the rail industry by 2019.

And among the proposals suggested is the closure of all Category E ticket offices, which deal with less than 250,000 passengers a year and where ticket offices are open for less than ten hours a day.

This includes the ticket offices at Buxton, New Mills Newtown, New Mills Central, Whaley Bridge and Disley stations. Passengers using these stations would then have to buy their tickets from vending machines, which means they can’t always get the best price.

However the final decision will rest with the train operators. A spokesperson from Northern Rail, who run most of the High Peak’s train services, said: “The McNulty report is a wide-ranging and significant study into rail industry costs and we along with other partners are giving it the serious and detailed consideration it rightly deserves.

“We have no immediate plans to close any ticket offices, however we recognise that passengers have differing preferences for how they buy their tickets.

“Over recent years we’ve improved our ticket offices and installed more ticket vending machines as well as launching our online ticket sales facility.

“We will continue to enhance our retail options for customers, acknowledging that it is not ‘one size fits all’.”

And Cllr Jean Wharmby, Chair of the High Peak and Hope Valley Community Rail Partnership added: “I have noted the report and their interest, but the report seems to have a lot of errors.

“Buxton’s 2009/10 usage of 301,432 passengers per year puts it beyond the threshold.

“It’s an important two-way interchange not least for tourists as well as locals, so there are lots of enquiries too from users and potential users alike, as well as ticket sales.

“We will await proposals from DfT and then Northern Rail, and would then discuss the detail via the Partnership with local users and respond.

“A “one size fits all” approach is not the answer for all locations. We have an excellent relationship with Northern as evidenced by joint funding towards ticket office and waiting room improvements in the High Peak.”

The McNulty report was presented to Transport Secretary Philip Hammond in May and a detailed response from him is expected next month when Parliament resumes.

The proposals have been slammed by the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), who said the “hit list” of the 675 station ticket offices at risk was “buried in the small print” of the report.

And Gerry Doherty, leader of the TSSA, called on the Transport Secretary to reject the controversial plans: “This is a double whammy for millions of passengers. Last month they were told that fares will rise by 25 per cent over the next three years.

“And they are now set to lose one in four ticket offices. Not only are unstaffed stations less secure, tickets bought from machines are usually more expensive.

“Philip Hammond should give a clear undertaking that he is going to ditch these draconian cuts in services to passengers.”

“The union is launching a “SOS-Save our Station ticket offices” campaign which will tour the party conferences over the next four weeks.”