Train operator wants Nottinghamshire passengers' views on plans to modernise customer service
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Where adopted, the proposals will see ticket office staff transitioning to multi-skilled “customer help” roles – already in place in many parts of the network – where they would be better able to give advice about the best and cheapest fares, support customers with accessibility needs and to help customers board and alight from trains.
The changes would mean a more visible and accessible staff presence overall in stations during staffed hours, on ticket concourses and on platforms.
The proposals would help bring station retailing up to date from the mid 90s when 80 per cent of all tickets were sold at ticket offices, compared to just 12 per cent nationally and less than five per cent at EMR stations on average today.
The propoals says bringing staff out from offices would allow the railway to respond to that 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.
Independent passenger watchdogs Transport Focus and London Travel Watch will facilitate the 21-day consultation for passengers, which could see the closure of a number of ticket offices across the network as staff move out from behind the glass.
EMR says it is committed to smoothing the transition of moving staff closer to customers and the proposed changes would be phased in gradually.
It continued: “Ticket selling facilities will remain open at the busiest stations and interchanges, selling the full range of tickets while the transition takes place.
“Following these changes, if a customer is unable to buy a specific ticket before boarding the train because it was unavailable at the station, they would be able to buy one during their journey, at a ticket office en-route, or at their destination.
“Alongside the public consultation on ticket offices, a range of options will be created for staff affected, including moving to a new skilled role and comprehensive re-training and re-skilling, and EMR will continue to engage constructively with unions at a local level to manage the transition in a way that works best for staff.
Informed by extensive and on-going engagement with accessibility, safety and passenger groups, rail companies are also unveiling a series of pledges for rail passengers about the proposals.
- Across the network staff will be available at the right time, in the right locations according to customer demand;
- Customers will be able to purchase tickets prior to boarding through a variety of means;
- Customers will still be able to purchase tickets onboard in the way that they do today, including on rural services;
- Those with accessibility needs will always be supported;
- All rail staff will be treated fairly and their new roles will be more varied and engaging.
EMR said: “Stations without ticket offices already make up more than 70 per cent of those operating across the EMR network.
"Nationally, stations without ticket offices already make up 43 per cent of those operating across the UK, with a further 40 per cent being staffed part-time.
"In some cases, those ticket stations are purpose built and supported by a passenger reception desk.
"In other cases ticket office facilities have been converted into community hubs, coffee shops and cafes while staff support customers closer to gate lines.
“The reforms will not affect EMR's ability to provide assistance to those needing wheelchair and mobility support from staff, either on demand at the station or by booking in advance.
Time for change
"Our proposals would mean more staff on hand on to give face to face help with a much wider range of needs, from journey planning, to finding the right ticket and helping those with accessibility needs.
“Our commitment is that we will always treat our staff, who are hugely valued, fairly, with support and extra training to move in to new, rewarding and varied roles and we will never compromise on safety.
"We also understand that our customers have differing needs which is why train companies will be consulting widely with accessibility and passenger groups to take on board their views.”
However, rail user groups have said any ticket office reforms must not be to the disadvantage of any station users.
A Transport for the North spokesman said: “We understand the way people buy tickets is changing and there needs to be reform. However, this should be done in a holistic way, considering the needs of all station users and local communities.
TftN said: “We are concerned the focus on ticket office staffing in isolation of wider investment, for example, pay-as-you-go ticketing, could lead to disadvantaging certain passengers and communities.
“We will be working with our partners on a robust response to the consultation using local evidence and knowledge.
“Patronage growth on the railways in the north is strong, albeit people are choosing to travel at different times for different purposes.
"Done correctly, we can ensure that reform supports growth and the needs of all passengers.
"But it must not be to the disadvantage of any station users, especially in regards to accessibility and safety.”
Have your say
To have your say, email [email protected] or write freepost to RTEH-XAGE-BYKZ, Transport Focus, PO Box 5594, Southend on Sea, SS1 9PZ.
For more information, visit transportfocus.org.uk
The consultation closes on July 26.