By Local Democracy Reporter John Wimperis: Bath’s MP has slammed “cost-cutting” plans to close the ticket office in the city’s railway station. Bath Spa is one of hundreds of stations across the country that could see their ticket office close. Rail companies say that station staff will be able to sell people tickets on the concourse, but the plans have been widely criticised — including by Bath’s member of parliament, Wera Hobhouse.
Ms Hobhouse said: “The government is prioritising cost-cutting measures over positive rail user experiences. Not only have they increased ticket prices, but they are now considering closing the ticket office Bath residents so often use.”
A public consultation on the ticket office closures ran until September 1.
Ms Hobhouse is also encouraging people to sign a petition by the Liberal Democrats against the closure of the ticket office in Bath.
She said: “Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage city, and we are proud to see so many visitors travelling around the world to visit our beautiful community. However, it can be particularly confusing for foreign visitors to use an unfamiliar app or ticketing machine.
“We also need to consider sustainable travel. We should encourage more people to use public transport to reduce transport emissions. Cutting ticket offices will only make people less confident in using these services.”
Kevin Guy, leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council, also criticised the plans. He said: “Local Lib Dems are speaking out against the proposal to move staff out of recognised points of sale, warning this will make it more difficult for passengers to find the best value fares — particularly for older and disabled people, visitors from overseas and those with fewer IT skills.”
In August, RMT activists, supporters, and councillors Joanna Wright and Onkar Saini from Bath and North East Somerset Council protested against the planned closures outside the station.
RMT activist and station worker Robin White said that the ticket office being temporarily shut due to plaster falling in from the roof had been “a taste of what its going to be like without ticket offices.”
He said: “The public aren’t happy, the staff aren’t happy, nobody’s happy about it”
Great Western Railway insisted that the temporary closure of the ticket office did not reflect how ticket sales would work in the future if the ticket office was closed.
The railway company says that their plan to close ticket offices would keep stations “up-to-date.”
The Great Western Railway website states: “Digital tickets have made it easier and faster for customers to buy and manage tickets online, which means fewer people than ever are using ticket offices.
“The approach would help bring station retailing up-to-date from 1996, when the rules on how to sell tickets were set and before the invention of the smartphone. Back then, 82% of all tickets were sold at ticket offices nationally, compared to less than 15% on average today.
“Bringing staff out from offices would allow the railway to respond to the generational shift in customer behaviour, in common with many other industries and organisations that have long since done so such as Transport for London, most airlines and many banks and supermarkets.”
You can sign the Liberal Democrats’ local petition here: https://www.werahobhouse.co.uk/petition/railway-ticket-offices/
The consultation is now closed: https://www.transportfocus.org.uk/ticket-office-consultation/
The BBC have reported that the public consultation into the plans received 680,000 responses, which passenger watchdogs say is a record.
The main picture shows Bath MP Wera Hobhouse (left) and leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council Kevin Guy (right) at a closed ticket office booth at Bath Spa station (Image: Clive Dellard)
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