Aberdeen ticket office (Photo: Tony Miles)

UK: ScotRail has launched a review of all customer-facing functions, proposing changes to ticket office opening hours which it said would ‘better match customer purchasing and travelling habits in 2022 rather than 1991’ to provide ‘a financially and environmentally sustainable railway that will deliver value for money for customers and taxpayers’.

Hours would be changed at 120 of the 143 stations with staffed ticket offices, with some locations seeing minor changes and others reduced opening hours, while the ticket offices at Cartsdyke, Clydebank and Woodhall would be completely closed.

Transport Focus began public consultation on behalf of the operator on January 12.

ScotRail said ‘many stations are no longer busy enough to justify having staff behind a screen in a ticket office when they could be out helping customers’, noting that opening hours have remained largely the same since the 1990s despite a drop in usage from 40% of transactions in 2011 to 28% in 2019.

The 355 ticket vending machines accounted for 26% of all ticket sales in 2019, and the internet a further 18%.

The operator said no staff would lose their jobs, with those affected being redeployed to provide enhanced customer service on the frontline or ‘repurposed’ from less busy locations to enable the establishment of mobile on-train and station teams.

Glasgow Queen Street ScotRail Class 385 EMU

ScotRail also said that aligning ticket office hours with customer usage would save more than 102 tonnes of CO2 each year from heating and lighting.

‘This proposal will improve staff visibility, helpfulness, and increase passenger assistance beyond our larger stations’, ScotRail said. ‘This deployment of staff would be much more flexible, customer centric and better match customer purchasing and travelling habits.’ Mobile teams would be deployed at the busiest locations during peak periods to alleviate queues, collaborate with British Transport Police to manage antisocial behaviour and assist revenue protection teams at barriers and on trains.

ScotRail adds that staff could also ‘engage in wider community initiatives such as adopt a station, school safety initiatives and climate change/CO2 reduction’.

There would also be opportunities to introduce family-friendly working hours and part time shifts.

Head of Customer Operations Phil Campbell said ‘there has been no real review of our ticket office opening hours for 30 years, and it is important we keep up with the changing habits of customers who no longer rely on purchasing tickets in that way. With more than a 50% drop in the use of ticket offices, heightened by the pandemic, we want to do everything we can to make sure everyone has a hassle-free journey. Nobody in ScotRail will lose their jobs as a result of these changes, and it is important to note that rather being about cutting jobs, this is about adding value for our staff and customers.’

Responding to the news, TSSA trade union General Secretary Manuel Cortes said ‘this is completely the wrong step for growing numbers on Scotland’s railway. Closing booking offices and/or reducing their opening hours is a retrograde step. Booking office staff don’t just sell tickets, they help passengers on and off the trains and they keep stations safe for passengers — by salting and gritting platforms at this time of the year and by discouraging anti-social behaviour.’

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said the proposals would ‘undoubtedly worsen passenger service and accessibility’ and the Scottish government ‘should step in and urgently retract these proposals’.