Railfuture East Anglia have written to Transport Focus about the possible ticket office closures:
The East Anglian Branch of Railfuture, representing many rail users throughout the region, view with great concern the proposals to close booking offices at Great Chesterford, Walton-on-the-Naze, Thorpe-le-Soken, Great Bentley, Alresford, Harwich International and Dovercourt. The matter was discussed at our meeting on Saturday 25th March.
We are especially concerned at the prospect of no human presence at most of these stations. Details of non-ticket office staff to be provided at these stations has not been defined by Greater Anglia and should be clarified.
It is true that advances in technology mean that some passengers can now also book via automatic ticket machines, the internet or mobile apps. However, not everyone has access to these, not all ticket machines take coins and not everyone has a bank account with a card. Yet it is important that a public transport service should be socially inclusive and that everyone is able to purchase a ticket.
With double the number of passengers travelling by train compared to the situation 20 years ago, and not all of them experienced rail users, it is vital that intending customers have the option of speaking face to face to a real person - if only to ensure that mistakes are not made and they obtain the ticket that is right for them, at the right price. This is especially true in a society with a growing elderly population and greater awareness of issues such as dementia. With more people using rail - which we welcome - there are danger that, if booking offices are closed, revenue will be lost because of an increase in deliberate or unintentional fraudulent travel.
It has been suggested that passengers purchase their tickets from the conductor on the train. Some of the rolling stock on these routes is lengthy and, with only short stretches between stations , it may not be practical for a member of staff to deal with all passengers wanting to pay for their journey.
There may be a case for reducing opening hours and operating certain booking offices on a single shift. Most users of stations with a high proportion of commuters or day trippers will want to buy a ticket in the morning or early afternoon, not in the evening. In that case, the opening hours must be well-advertised and adhered to. We note that existing ticket office hours are not currently on the Greater Anglia web-site, just the telephone hep line.
Ticket machines cannot normally sell advance tickets or group tickets. There is no information provided by the Greater Anglia that ticket machines at these stations will be upgraded. Station staff can sell such tickets, but they are also not just there to sell tickets and give fares advice, however. They also have to help persons of reduced mobility, keep the premises clean and tidy and answer customers' questions.
Finally, a human presence on the station improves security, reassures passengers and reduces the risk of vandalism - all of which contribute to a positive customer experience.
All of the above concerns also apply to this station; with the added challenge of it being a gateway for visitors from abroad. A considerable number - but by no means all - of the passengers on the scheduled ferry from Hoek van Holland will already have a through ticket. For those who do not, however, many need extra assistance that only a real person can provide.
It is also important that a member of rail staff is available as passengers come through the border/customers controls and into the booking hall, where even those who already have a ticket may well have questions, especially if services are in any way disrupted.
Of course, the ferry traffic, which nowadays is mainly leisure traffic, has peaks and troughs, and so at some times more staff may be needed than at others. Cruise ships also dock at Harwich and their passengers will often want to spend some time ashore. They may wish to buy a train ticket to a local destination for a day or half-day trip. Has this been taken into account?
There are other possible options for Harwich customers if and when the booking office is closed. For example, arrangements could be made with Stena Line to sell a limited range of rail tickets either on board the vessel or at their reception desk in the terminal at Harwich - but their staff would then need to be trained to do so and suitable financial arrangements also made. Indeed, this also applies if any other third party is selling rail tickets - for example at an unstaffed station.
We hope that you and your colleagues will consider all the above points and, of course, we would be happy to have further discussion with you.
Railfuture East Anglia published its aspirations for the East Anglia rail franchise in advance of the start of the consultation. The can be downloaded here:
We have received a letter of thanks from Claire Perry, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport which can be downloaded here:
Railfuture's response to the consultation can be downloaded here
The Greater Anglia Railway is East Anglia's railway. It radiates from London Liverpool Street station to all the corners of our region via all its major centres*.
On Tuesday December 9th 2014, the Department for Transport (DfT) issued its consultation document inviting everybody in the region to have their say about the next franchise to operate our railway, and how it should develop and improve. This new franchise is expected to begin on 17 October 2016.
In anticipation of the DfT's consultation, Railfuture has put together a list of fundamental demands for this new franchise which are to be found in the document which can be downloaded here http://www.railfuture.org.uk/east/docs/Railfuture-East-Anglia-Greater-Anglia-Franchise-Aspirations-2014.pdf
Brand new, ‘high spec’ intercity trains for the London to Norwich mainline including Wi-Fi throughout; New, high specification medium distance rolling stock for all other services from/to London;
An increase in the number of diesel trains to operate all non electrified lines pending their electrification; An hourly Ipswich to Peterborough service; Half hourly minimum frequency between the region’s major towns; Improvements in journey times on all routes;
A minimum standard of passenger facilities including car and cycle parking at all key stations across the entire network;
Timetable to operate seven days a week at same basic off peak level, including Boxing Day;
Improved 'final service of the day' from all key centres;
Reconnect Wisbech to the national network.
Railfuture Branch Chairman Peter Wakefield said "As many of our trains are overcrowded, rail passengers will be expecting the new franchise to deliver significant improvements in both rolling stock and timetables. We are a growing successful region and we need a rail service to match"
- These include Cambridge, Norwich, Ipswich, Colchester, Chelmsford, Peterborough, Southend, Braintree, Clacton, Harwich, Sudbury, Bury St Edmunds, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Felixstowe, Newmarket, Thetford, Ely, March, King's Lynn, Saffron Walden, Cromer, Sheringham, Beccles, Woodbridge, Saxmundham, Diss, Stowmarket, Burnham on Crouch, Stansted Airport, Bishops Stortford, Harlow., Attleborough, Wymondham.
Notes to editors: Railfuture is the UK's leading independent organisation campaigning for better rail services for both passengers and freight. Railfuture's website can be found at www.railfuture.org.uk and the East Anglia Branch at www.railfuture.org.uk/East+Anglia Follow Railfuture on Twitter @Railfuture and Railfuture East Anglia @RailfutureEA For further information please contact eastanglia at railfuture.org.uk
Download the press release:
The Railfuture East Anglia Branch aspirations for the Greater Anglia franchise can be downloaded here (PDF document):
- Rolling stock
- London – Norwich Route
- London outer-suburban routes
- Interurban routes
- Additional Services
- Last Services
- Sunday Services & Public Holidays
- New Services and stations
- The door to door journey experience
- Infrastructure work associated with improved and new services
- Rail Replacement Buses
- Compensation - Delay Repay / refunds
- Call Centres
The Department for Transport's consultation can be viewed here:
Read mode about Norwich in 90 and rail in East Anglia here:
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