West Sussex railway stations could face ‘carnage’ as some are set to lose their ticket offices or have their opening hours cut, a rail union has claimed.
The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) called proposals for 81 stations across the South East a ‘disgrace’ and has launched a campaign to ‘stop them in their tracks’.
But Govia Thameslink Railway, which runs the Southern and Thameslink franchises, said that affected stations will be staffed for longer as a result of bringing some of their staff from behind windows on to the concourse to work as ‘station hosts’.
Stations at Lancing and Shoreham-by-Sea could see ticket selling relocated on to a ‘station hosting point’ on the concourse.
Meanwhile stations at Angmering, Barnham, Bognor Regis, Burgess Hill, Chichester, Crawley, Hassocks, Horsham, Littlehampton and Worthing, would keep their ticket offices open at peak times, but during off-peak times they would be closed and ‘station hosts’ would operate instead.
Mick Cash, RMT’s general secretary, called proposals a ‘disgrace’ and said they could ‘unleash a wave of ticket office carnage’.
The union warned that plans could be implemented by the summer, and raised concerns about potential losses of ‘safety critical jobs’.
Mr Cash added: “RMT is launching a campaign of opposition to these plans and we will be working with the travelling public to stop them in their tracks.”
However GTR said there would be no compulsory redundancies as a result of their plans, and proposals would have to go through a public consultation.
The rail operator would be discussing plans with London TravelWatch and Transport Focus and any changes require approval from the Department for Transport.
A spokesman for GTR said: “We want to modernise the way we operate approximately 80 of our busier stations across Great Northern, Southern and Thameslink for the benefit of passengers, many of whom now buy their tickets online, or use Oyster, contactless and smartcards.
“Where sales from ticket offices are low, we want to bring staff out from behind the windows and on to the concourse to work where they’re needed most, as station hosts, providing assistance and helping sell tickets from ticket machines and their own handheld devices.
“All the affected stations will be staffed for longer as a result – at all but two they would be staffed from the very first train of the day to the very last, seven days a week.
“This will drive other customer benefits – we’ll also be able to increase the opening hours of facilities passengers have told us are important, such as waiting rooms, toilets and lifts.”
Martin Abrams, public transport campigner at the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “This proposed closure of ticket offices across the Govia Thameslink franchise is a backwards step and will mean passengers will have to rely even more on confusing ticket vending machines that still fail to offer passengers the cheapest fares for their journey.
“There is a risk that passengers will not get the help and advice they need from staff to ensure they always get the best possible fares for their journey.
“It is ridiculous that these proposals come at the same time as the Government pulls the plug on their flagship smart ticketing programme which would have made things simpler and less confusing for passengers.
“We want to see fares and ticketing simplified across the whole rail network but whilst passengers struggle to comprehend the current mess it is vital that ticket offices remain open to provide the cheapest fares and the information that passengers need to complete their journeys.”
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