The move would see the likes of Tunbridge Wells and High Brooms station completely unmanned with tickets only available from machines or online. The railway industry says the closures could save up to £500million annually.
The news follows reports in national newspapers that said a ‘confidential strategy to phase out paper tickets and close or repurpose 980 ticket offices in England, starting in September’.
According to the Sunday Times it had ‘emerged that all ticket offices are to close on the railways, forcing passengers to book online under plans to save up to £500 million a year’.
Rob Mansfield of Tonbridge Line Commuters, which campaigns for a better service on the line that runs through both Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells to London, said the plans will not work.
He told the Times: “It has been widely rumoured that ticket offices would be shut as part of a plan to save costs.
“We wouldn’t be averse to reducing hours but it needs to follow an open discussion.
“Without serious consideration and significant investment, this plan will not work and is therefore unlikely to save £500million a year.”
Disability campaigners in Tunbridge Wells are also concerned with the move, saying ticket office staff perform a vital service.
Cllr Alan Bullion, who represents Labour at Southborough Town Council, and who has walked with a stick since last year, said: “Train ticket offices at local stations like High Brooms play a crucial role for passenger safety and information and should not be shut down.
“The staff are always polite, friendly, and helpful. They cannot be fully replaced by automated machines, which can break down and must be maintained.
“Also, for disabled people like me, the presence of staff to help passengers on and off trains and up and down steep steps is important.”
Tunbridge Wells MP, Greg Clark, said the government had ‘no firm plans’ to close ticket offices, but added: “Whilst it’s true that most people now buy their tickets online or from machines, ticket offices are important for people who have more complex journeys to discuss.”