It’s looking likely that the government will embark on a program of mass ticket office closures across the rail network as the Treasury seek cuts to rail in England.
Plans from the Department for Transport for mass closures havn’t exactly been unknown in the recent past and have been a point of contention with rail unions. If measures do go ahead it would mirror what Transport for London did across the London Underground.
Government plans for cuts are being delivered via the Rail Delivery Group. In effect a front for Westminster’s decision.
However unlike the tube, many national rail stations are scarcely staffed as it is. If we look at Southeastern Metro, which is under direct DfT control and previously depended upon many years of short DfT franchise extensions, many stations are often completely unstaffed.
When staff have been lost, were more seen at various stations? Don’t be silly.
As covered on this site before, dozens of stations on SE see ticket offices closed already on a daily basis. And most stations are barely staffed as it is – so a ticket office closed almost always means no staff at all.
Whether in a tourist hotspot like Greenwich or areas of mass housebuilding such as Kidbrooke, Southeastern Metro stations could point the way for cuts in many other areas.
Government ministers are likely to claim that staff will be moved to station buildings and platforms from ticket offices. Well, if Southeastern Metro is a guide they’ll simply reduce staffing levels full stop.
That in turn is an open goal for travelling without paying.
We saw previously on Southeastern Metro at Abbey Wood station that when TfL took over and properly staffed it, counted passenger numbers in 2019 shot up by 50 per cent on the equivalent months in 2018. And that was years before Elizabeth line services begun.
In contrast the DfT managed SE Metro network make ticketless travel a doddle. No staff on trains. None at the vast majority of stations.
While government will claim reform will help passengers under the guise of modernisation, in reality it likely to mean further cuts for short term savings.
In time will create a network that is less safe, offers less assistance to passengers, increases ticketless travel and results in fare revenue lost.
If you want a glimpse of it, travel across Southeastern metro trains and stations.