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Railway Stations: Opening Hours

Volume 488: debated on Tuesday 24 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what criteria his Department set for determining whether South West Trains be allowed to close ticket offices within the terms of its franchise agreement; and what criteria will be applied in decisions on First Capital Connect’s proposed closures of ticket offices. (255995)

South West Trains (SWT) submitted its proposals as a major change under the procedures of the Ticketing and Settlement Agreement (TSA—the approved industry process for such matters), which sets the procedures that operators use to change ticket office hours.

The major change procedure permits operators to make reductions in the opening hours of their ticket offices as long as the appropriate criteria are met. These are that:

the change represents an improvement on current arrangements in terms of quality of service and/or cost-effectiveness; and

that members of the public will continue to enjoy widespread and easy access to the purchase of rail products

Following the required consultation period Passenger Focus (PF) and London TravelWatch (LTW) raised objections to the SWT proposal and the Secretary of State was required to arbitrate.

The Secretary of State reviewed the proposal against the criteria set out in the Ticketing and Settlement Agreement, taking into account the views of Passenger Focus, London TravelWatch and SWT. No SWT ticket offices were closed completely.

First Capital Connect’s proposals are currently under consultation. It would therefore be inappropriate for me to make any comment on them at present as that may fetter the discretion of the Secretary of State if the proposals are referred by the operator for arbitration. However, should this arise the same criteria will be applied.