Rail ticket office considered for closure despite being region’s fourth busiest

THE TICKET office at Tunbridge Wells station is among those to be considered for closure as part of planned cutbacks, despite being one of the most-used in the whole of the Southeastern network.

Research by the Times shows that the local office should remain open, based on the criteria being used by Southeastern Railway to determine which ones should close.

According to Southeastern’s consultation website, 14 of its “busiest stations on the network” will have Travel Centres which are expected to give passengers “travel information and ticketing solutions”.

London Bridge, Tonbridge, Ashford, and Sevenoaks have the first, second, third and fifth most-used ticket offices, respectively, with Travel Centres planned at each of the stations.

Yet, Tunbridge Wells will not be keeping its ticket office and will be up for consultation this autumn despite having the fourth most used ticket office across the network.

In 2022, 54 per cent of tickets were sold directly at Tunbridge Wells station with 29.3 per cent (284,626) sold from the ticket office.

25 per cent (243,002) were sold at a Ticket Vending Machine (TVM) while 45.6 per cent (442,871) were sold online.

MP for Tunbridge Wells Greg Clark spoke with Rail Minister Huw Merriman MP on August 2, and has written to Southeastern to express his opposition to ticket office closures.

Mr Clark said that the figures show that there is no logical case for not providing a travel centre at Tunbridge Wells.

“Although our local stations are not currently being consulted on for closure, I wanted to make it crystal clear to Southeastern and the Department for Transport that our ticket offices and their staff play a vital role in helping passengers, especially those with disabilities or with complex travel plans. The figures show that Tunbridge Wells station ticket office, in particular, is well used and should not even be considered in any future consultation.”

Peter Fairweather, a train conductor, originally from Heathfield, East Sussex, told the Times: “I don’t think Tunbridge Wells ticket office should be closing, it is within the top five of Southeastern’s ticket sales, with almost a third using the ticket office compared to the ticket machines or online.

“What is first required is ticket reform, to allow for quick and simple ticket purchase where you know how much it will cost and can obtain it easily, and level boarding on newer trains to allow those with accessible needs to be able to board and alight trains independently before we consider reducing ticket offices and staffing.”

Southeastern says just over a quarter of their tickets are sold at their 142 ticket offices, with this number continuing to get smaller.

This first phase is currently under consultation, with a further 90 ticket offices, including Tunbridge Wells, up for consultation in the autumn. Any changes will take place over the next two years.

David Wornham, Passenger Services Director at Southeastern, told the Times: “We’re currently consulting on the future of 40 ticket offices, mainly within the London Pay As You Go area, with a second phase of consultation due to follow in the autumn, which will include Tunbridge Wells and the rest of our stations in Kent and East Sussex.

“As part of our proposals we’re planning to introduce Travel Centres at 14 of some of the busiest stations across our network. Our aim is to build a better, safer and more accessible railway.

“Every station that’s staffed today will continue to be staffed by colleagues trained to provide more help to customers in more ways, both inside the station and on the platform. In addition, we’ll provide more solutions to customers happy to self-serve, such as eTickets, as well as existing options like The Key,” Mr Wornham explained.

“When the second phase of our consultation opens later this year, we’d invite anyone with a view on the future of ticket offices to submit their views to either Transport Focus or London TravelWatch in the eight-week consultation window. If agreed, the closure of ticket offices would be implemented over a suitable period of time to enable detailed, practical measures to be introduced to support all customers especially those with specific accessibility needs.”

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