The Conservative government have today changed course on previous plans to close all ticket offices in England.
Despite the move being dictated by the Department for Transport in a quest for funding cuts, the very same ministers who pushed for closure are now stating they won’t close them at all. Oh no it wasn’t us. It was all the fault of the horrible rail companies.
Yep, that’s a nonsense.
At the entirely government-controlled Southeastern the question now is what happens as government demands have already pushed through staff reductions and dozens of office closures each day via the back door.
With the DfT micro-managing funding after demands of cuts from the Treasury, staff that have left in recent years havn’t seen replacements, and so on any given day you’ll see closed ticket windows and no staff elsewhere at many stations.
Dozens more today
Today, for example, closures are seen at New Cross, Belvedere, Erith, Eltham, Deptford, Bexleyheath, Kidbrooke, Catford Bridge, Ladywell, Lower Sydenham, Maze Hill, Plumstead, Welling to name just a few.
They aren’t sleepy stations in the middle of Kent. They’re major London stations serving thousands each day and many in areas of substantial housing and population growth.
This isn’t new. For years when Southeastern was still a franchise, the DfT still didn’t do much but award short term extensions without seeking serious investment.
Thus Southeastern have long failed to keep up with growth in areas like Kidbrooke. A new station was built in recent years but then barely staffed since.
So does anyone think Southeastern will improve staffing at, say, Plumstead station despite more than 2,500 homes now being built within a few hundred metres?
Or more pertinently, will the Department for Transport allow them to hire staff after a change of tack nationally?
As it is, stations can be gloomy, windswpt places that are to be avoided at certain times.
And getting on SE Metro trains isn’t much better. No staff on them either.
It’s all combining to run down a network that could offer far, far more than it currently does. And if you see politicians from the ruling party trying to make hay on this change remember that their own party has – and continues – to drive the appeal of local rail ever down.