TRAIN users are fighting plans to close Stratford railway station’s ticket office.
The Shakespeare Line Rail User Group (SLRUG) has written to the Department for Transport expressing its opposition to the contentious plans, which are geared at “modernising” the way train tickets are sold at stations. The group has labelled the move “discriminatory” and entirely unsuitable for a tourist station like Stratford.
The plans would see all the remaining station ticket offices closed across the country, including the one at Stratford station, over the next three years and ticket office employees instead brought out from behind the counter to assist customers on the platform.
The closures have come about following a call from transport secretary Mark Harper for train operators, including West Midlands Railway, to cut costs.
A consultation on the reforms is taking place but the plan, if given the go-ahead, would see stations including Stratford serviced by mobile teams who would move between stations and be deployed to offer extra help where needed.
Ticket vending machines would also be upgraded to allow customers to buy the most popular tickets at stations, while station employees would have hand-held devices.
SLRUG Chair Peter Morris said that while the group acknowledged that the number of tickets issued by booking offices had reduced due to technological advances over the last decade, train fares had become more complex, leading to confusion and uncertainty by people trying to use the train.
Mr Morris also labelled the proposals “discriminatory”, as those not adept at using digital technology would find their ability to access train services impeded.
He continued that the group were most concerned with the impact these closures would have on Stratford station.
He explained: “Stratford is a major international and national visitor attraction and destination. Visitors’ needs at a station such as Stratford are significant. Often, they need onward travel information, and as the station is a terminus these days, journeys start and end at Stratford, especially those new to the area or from overseas.
“We have seen nothing in the proposals that would guarantee or at least require a daily presence at Stratford so passengers could be assisted with their needs. The current automatic ticket machines do not offer a full range of train fares and booking services currently provided by the booking office. Consequently, passengers without access to online systems and facilities will be disadvantaged and, worse, unable to travel by train because they cannot obtain a ticket or the necessary services and support.”
Mr Morris added: “The proposals provide no guarantee or indeed even a minimum specification of hours for the presence of staff at the station. Consequently, we cannot support the proposals as they are currently presented. Indeed, we strongly oppose all the plans to close booking offices in their present form.”
A spokesperson for West Midlands Railway said it needed to evolve with its customers and the proposal would mean staff being more visible and available where customers most need them on concourses and platforms.
The spokesperson added they would be looking at ways of supporting customers when it came to digital technology to ensure no-one was left behind.