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Railway Ticket Offices

Volume 489: debated on Tuesday 10 March 2009

7. What recent discussions he has had with train operating companies on changes to ticket office opening hours at railway stations. (261710)

Officials in the Department for Transport have recently discussed ticket office change proposals made by South West Trains, First Capital Connect, National Express East Anglia and National Express East Coast. Some of those are small changes and some outline proposals.

I thank the Minister for that reply. At many stations operated by South West Trains, staff have been replaced with ticket machines. Those stations are often the smaller ones, and disabled constituents can no longer access a train at the station of their choice. Despite his well-meant access for all programme, is it not the case that access for disabled passengers is being restricted by penny-pinching initiatives by the train operating companies?

The hon. Lady will be well aware that South West Trains made a substantial number of proposals, many of which were in fact rejected by my noble Friend the Minister of State, Lord Adonis. Indeed, many of those proposals were made on the basis that there would not be unfettered continuation of ticket supplies to the travelling public where there was clearly demand for it. Decisions were taken about some ticket offices, but many proposals were rejected. I draw attention to the work that we, and indeed the hon. Lady, have done on access for all, secure stations and the assisted passenger reservation service.

My hon. Friend will be aware that First Capital Connect’s far-reaching proposal to reduce ticket office opening hours affects 28 constituencies and a large number of stations, including Enfield Chase and Gordon Hill in my constituency. It will affect security, and it represents a reduction in customer services and is not good value for money. I hope that the Minister will reject the proposal when he considers it, taking those grounds into account.

I know that my right hon. Friend has campaigned extensively in respect of the stations that fall within her constituency. She will be aware of the benchmarks that my noble Friend Lord Adonis put in place with South West Trains, one of which is that if there is an average sale of 12 tickets per hour in the hours that would be affected, a proposal will be rejected outright. That benchmark has required First Capital Connect to withdraw its proposals for 56 stations. Indeed, we have asked it to revise them again on that basis. I know that my right hon. Friend will be meeting my noble Friend in due course once First Capital Connect has made new proposals.