Passengers urged to give their views on reduced staffing

PUBLISHED: 13:00 14 July 2008 | UPDATED: 22:03 15 June 2010

South West Trains (SWT) has announced a proposal to reduce the opening hours of ticket offices at around 100 of its stations.

South West Trains (SWT) has announced a proposal to reduce the opening hours of ticket offices at around 100 of its stations. The proposal will be advertised to passengers this week and they will have 21 days to comment on the plan. The national rail watchdog is calling on passengers to tell us their views about plans to change ticket office opening hours by contacting Passenger Focus. Passenger Focus's research has found rail users generally trust that staff will give them the best priced ticket deal and advice for their journey. However, in the Spring 2008 National Passenger Survey, only 56% of rail users said they were satisfied with the availability of staff at stations. Passengers also put staff being available at the station in their top 20 priorities for improvement on the railway. Passenger Focus wants to hear how the SWT plans might affect passengers. Once passengers have put forward their views, Passenger Focus will take this feedback to the train company and Department for Transport.While some of these ticket offices might have low volumes of sales, passengers will want to see how the resources saved will be used to their benefit. The watchdog is also concerned that under the SWT proposals, some routes will see nearly all the offices shut on Sunday, even when trains are running. This will mean passengers will be forced to shop online or use a ticket vending machine because tickets cannot be purchased on board. Passengers won't be able to seek out staff for advice and won't be able to access some tickets that they would normally be able to buy over the counter. Passenger Focus also has concerns about toilets and waiting rooms being left shut without staff being available to open the facilities and that stations will be vulnerable to vandalism. Anthony Smith, Passenger Focus chief executive said: "The loss of staff from the station might put off passengers who don't normally catch the train or don't have the confidence to use a ticket vending machine. Passengers who might otherwise spontaneously show up for a day out may think twice about using the train if there is no one to offer advice on the best ticket. "We recognise the importance of having operational ticket vending machines available at the station, but some passengers prefer using the ticket office or in some cases the best ticket isn't available from the ticket vending machine." Jocelyn Pearson, passenger manager, is leading Passenger Focus's consultation on the SWT changes. She commented: "It is important for passengers who may be affected by these changes to tell us what they think about the proposal and what impact it might have on them so we can feed this back to SWT and the Department for Transport. Before we make any response to these plans, we must make certain we have an accurate passenger view." Passengers who wish to comment on the SWT's proposal should get in contact with Passenger Focus at www.passengerfocus.org.uk, call our passenger advice team on 08453 022 022 or write to Freepost RRRE-ETTC-LEET, PO Box 4257, Manchester, M60 3AR. London passengers can contact London TravelWatch.

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