All railway ticket offices in England to close?

HSTEd

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Even a £40,000 TVM is going to have a dramatically lower lifecycle cost per ticket sold than a ticket office staff member.
 
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Bletchleyite

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Even a £40,000 TVM is going to have a dramatically lower lifecycle cost per ticket sold than a ticket office staff member.

I think there's also scope to address "railway inflation" there. £40K is outrageous. What does a (far more mechanically complex) sweet vending machine cost? A railway TVM is little more than a PC and printer in a metal box. Even stuff like touchscreens are mainstream and cheap now. There's really no justification for one to cost a price similar to a brand-new premium car.

I reckon you could do a perfectly decent one for about £5K, particularly if cash did not need to be accepted.

Here, for instance, is a self-checkout kiosk device for £1200+vat. You'd also need to develop the software, but you'd only need to do so once. It could print e-tickets on till roll. It looks rather like what National Express have in some of their coach stations:

 

akm

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Nine pages (so far) reacting to Murdoch clickbait, it's definitely worked.
To be fair, about half* the posts are just the one person telling anyone who makes even a passing suggestion that this might be a bad idea that they are, in fact, wrong :D

* I am exaggerating for comedic effect
 

Trainbike46

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I imagine many of the potential complaints used as roadblocks have been dealt with in the other systems that have gone ticketless, such as Sweden and London Underground. What must DfT/NR learn from them that might not be obviously necessary for success?
All places that have completely or almost completely abolished ticket offices have simplified their ticketing structure a lot before removing the ticket offices. For example, the Netherlands abolished return tickets (moving to singles only) when introducing the OV-chipkaart. The UK has a very complicated ticketing structure, combined with the fact that some tickets can be either impossible or hard to buy online or at TVMs, and that's why, at present, we need ticket offices. This could be fixed, but that would require actually doing that before closing the ticket offices
 

mrd269697

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I agree with everything you've put. I had reason to use the booking office at Port Sunlight a while back, and the lad there was excellent, and couldn't have been more helpful. I do think that a manned ticket office does deter much anti social behaviour. Ive worked on the railway for many years, and ive seen it increase across the years, especially at stations that were once staffed and now arent. Many of these stations are isolated, and can feel quite menacing after a certain time of day.
Thank you! And yes - very true. I alighted the train the other day and a gentleman has collapsed. Passengers mainly ignored him. I alerted staff who were on duty who raced out to his aid.

I'd be less against it if I received quality service at booking offices, and Merseyrail ones have a particularly bad reputation for this. I've never used Hooton booking office so you may be one of the good ones, but so many of them are, I'm afraid, terrible.



Merseyrail, of course, does the opposite by preventing people from going digital, many of whom want to. It's bizarre.



Smaller station booking office staff do often do this, to be fair. Not cleaning the bogs, but Bletchley station staff do grit the platforms when there is ice.
I’m very sorry you received poor service. Personally, I try to go above and beyond for my passengers. As I cover different locations, I’ve been moaned at it by colleagues in busier stations (where there is more than one member of staff serving) for being too chatty and not dealing with the queue.

I do clean the toilets, some staff do, some don’t. Contractors do this occasionally but I like to just go over them in evenings when it’s quiet.

The role will change. But regardless if it involves selling tickets, I feel stations should be staffed.
 

Sm5

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maybe the stations have missed an oppourtunity to integrate into the community, for example Amazon lockers, post office services, police station, even cycle repair.

Any number of cute station buildings around my area which are mostly locked up / boarded over except for the counter… board that up then the next step is demolishing them and before you know it everywhere looks like Moses Gate.
 

Geeves

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One question I Had myself is what is making up this 500 million saving? If you go for 3 staff per office, 1000 offices and average wage plus overtime of 27K you still only come to around 81 million in wages, what makes up the other 300 million?
 

Bletchleyite

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One question I Had myself is what is making up this 500 million saving? If you go for 3 staff per office, 1000 offices and average wage plus overtime of 27K you still only come to around 81 million in wages, what makes up the other 300 million?

For one thing it is generally reckoned to cost roughly twice the salary to employ someone. That gets you to 160m at least.

It's also a fair bit more than 3 staff at many of them, typically it'll be 2 shifts x 3 or 4 windows at bigger stations.
 

MikeWM

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However I don't think this makes a material difference to whether or not ticket offices should remain open; the option to buy on board with cash if there is no facility at the station is not going to go away anytime soon. The ability to pay with cash needs to be maintained for the forseeable future (I'd argue indefinitely) but that doesn't need a ticket office.

I agree - it isn't a secret that I think keeping cash as an option is absolutely essential :)

But the problem over here in partial-DOO land is the lack of facility to pay on board, combined with messages such as those GA are currently playing at their stations every few minutes saying 'YOU MUST BUY A TICKET BEFORE YOU GET ON ONE OF OUR TRAINS'.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, currently the *only* option at Ely to pay with cash is if the ticket office is open (the TVMs haven't taken cash for months, for whatever reason).

Now *I* know that if the ticket office is temporarily closed, or outside their hours, then in such circumstances I could get on the train and pay at the destination (or from the guard if I happen to be getting a GA service), though I have to say I'd rather not. But how many other people do?
 

Bletchleyite

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I agree - it isn't a secret that I think keeping cash as an option is absolutely essential

While it's not uniform throughout the country, I don't think ceasing to accept cash in the London area would be a problem. Pretty much nobody uses cash in London any more. Most people don't even carry it. You get looked at funny if you try to pay cash for things in London.
 

MikeWM

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While it's not uniform throughout the country, I don't think ceasing to accept cash in the London area would be a problem. Pretty much nobody uses cash in London any more. Most people don't even carry it. You get looked at funny if you try to pay cash for things in London.

I'm not convinced that 'pretty much nobody' is entirely correct - I do still see people use cash in London quite a bit - but I would agree that it is significantly rarer in London than elsewhere. I do often encounter a card terminal thrust at me at tills by default, followed by some surprise when they see I'm brandishing a banknote instead.

(Conversely, the last time I bought electronic goods in one of the John Lewis stores in London for £400-and-a-bit a couple of months ago, I was somewhat amused to be asked 'cash or card' :) I'm increasingly militant about insisting on using cash, but I think insisting on paying for that much in cash would be going too far!)
 

Watershed

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For one thing it is generally reckoned to cost roughly twice the salary to employ someone. That gets you to 160m at least.

It's also a fair bit more than 3 staff at many of them, typically it'll be 2 shifts x 3 or 4 windows at bigger stations.
There is no way it costs anything close to £500m to staff all ticket offices. £500m might instead be the total level of savings the government is seeking to achieve by a combination of ticket office closures, Network Rail redundancies and so forth.

A well-informed commentor (who I daresay was once an active forum member) opined that a small, single-shift ticket office might cost £120k a year to run including all ancillary costs. Given that by far the majority of ticket offices fall into this category, even £160m seems way off the mark.
 

Philip

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While it's not uniform throughout the country, I don't think ceasing to accept cash in the London area would be a problem. Pretty much nobody uses cash in London any more. Most people don't even carry it. You get looked at funny if you try to pay cash for things in London.

This is far from the case in Manchester; around Wilmslow and Stockport area it seems to be mainly card transactions, but in the centre of Manchester I would say more people pay with cash than card.
 

Bletchleyite

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This is far from the case in Manchester; around Wilmslow and Stockport area it seems to be mainly card transactions, but in the centre of Manchester I would say more people pay with cash than card.

It wouldn't entirely surprise me if the removal of cash acceptance from TfL buses was a key part of driving people to start carrying and using cards in London. Sometimes it takes that sort of "disruptor" to change habits.
 

Philip

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There is no way it costs anything close to £500m to staff all ticket offices. £500m might instead be the total level of savings the government is seeking to achieve by a combination of ticket office closures, Network Rail redundancies and so forth.

A well-informed commentor (who I daresay was once an active forum member) opined that a small, single-shift ticket office might cost £120k a year to run including all ancillary costs. Given that by far the majority of ticket offices fall into this category, even £160m seems way off the mark.

If there are going to be no compulsory redundancies then it will be a tiny fraction of £500 million in savings.
 

Geeves

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As said above the vast majority of smaller offices have one single member of staff so that sounds about right. What is also not mentioned is that you would still have additional costs of extra revenue checks, potentially with hired in staff, those contracts do not come cheap especially if you multiplied that over the entire network, I am sure someone like Serco would be more than happy to take up the slack
 

Watershed

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If there are going to be no compulsory redundancies then it will be a tiny fraction of £500 million in savings.
Voluntary redundancies could get a lot of the way there. But I agree, £500m a year seems ambitious unless they have more up their sleeves.
 

APT618S

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Apologies if it's previously been mentioned as I have only skim read through the previous posts but a thread from 2011 stated that the company owing the booking office got commission on ticket sales of 2% on seasons and 9% on everything else:
Is this still the case ?
If so are any ticket offices profitable based solely on the commission they receive ?
If profitable, presumably the owning company would not want to close them.
 

Watershed

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Apologies if it's previously been mentioned as I have only skim read through the previous posts but a thread from 2011 stated that the company owing the booking office got commission on ticket sales of 2% on seasons and 9% on everything else:
Is this still the case ?
If so are any ticket offices profitable based solely on the commission they receive ?
If profitable, presumably the owning company would not want to close them.
Yes, those rates are still correct. "Profitable" is probably the wrong word though because, in the context of a booking office owned by the rail industry, the commission is a cost. And it is a cost that is avoided if tickets are sold through other means, such as ticket machines, where overheads might only amount to 1 or 2%.

In the context of a privately owned booking office, clearly they can be viable but it depends on having enough traffic to support the rent and other costs of operation. Generally they need to also sell other items (e.g. food/drink, or foreign tickets/journeys) to make a decent trade.
 

HSTEd

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A well-informed commentor (who I daresay was once an active forum member) opined that a small, single-shift ticket office might cost £120k a year to run including all ancillary costs. Given that by far the majority of ticket offices fall into this category, even £160m seems way off the mark.

So to reach £500m you need 4,000 "small" ticket-office shift equivalents.

Given that there are 980 ticket offices in England, at least according to the tabloids reporting this story, that gets you to ~£118m even if they are all manned for a single shift and are all small.

I don't think £500m is out of the question at all, as some at least will be manned two shifts at least.
 
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Wolfie

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While it's not uniform throughout the country, I don't think ceasing to accept cash in the London area would be a problem. Pretty much nobody uses cash in London any more. Most people don't even carry it. You get looked at funny if you try to pay cash for things in London.
Really? I've lived in London since 1986 and have never experienced what you state in your last sentence. I do agree though that most younger folk seem to pay for everything via their phone.
 

Romsey

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I know analogies with other industries aren't always helpful, but I think you should look at my industry (banking) as a sign of things to come.

When I joined the industry, there were bank branches in most reasonably sized settlements and suburbs, and this was after several rounds of closures had already happened. Now, outside of city and town centres there are very few branches. This is becuse most customers have changed their way of banking. There are far fewer cash and cheque transactions now, account servicing can mostly be done on line and new accounts are mostly opened online.

When we close a branch, we hear all the same arguments. What about Auntie Mary who needs to withdraw cash because she doesn't like using the ATM or paying for her shopping with a card? What about Uncle Bob who needs to pay in a once a year cheque but doesn't have a smart phone and doesn't trust the Post Office? What about someone who loses their card and needs some cash while they wait for a new one?

The truth is the industry found solutions for most of these problems, that didn't involve keeping an expensive branch open and staffed for the benefit of what was often 10 customers a day.

Yes, the railway needs to find solutions to marginal cases like ticket types that cannot be bought online, passengers who struggle with TVMs etc, but these are not particularly difficult. And I am almost certain they won't involve retaining a ticket office.

I make quite a lot of rail journeys. The last time I used a ticket office was years ago, back when Delay Repay used to be paid using paper vouchers. Of all the journeys I've made since then, I've never had need to use a ticket office and neither have I incurred penalty fares or threatened with prosecution due to a flat phone battery, a faulty TVM or any of the other scenarios people are suggesting.
In my home town one bank went over to machines and advisers only with no cash handling. It hasn't closed yet, but it lost many account holders to other nearby banks who will handle cash. Their advice was go to the Post Office to deal with cash. With 20 minute queues already that wasn't an attractive idea. One bank who still handle cash thought they had gained over 200 accounts in a few weeks. Many smaller heritage groups still rely on cash and cheques. ( After experience trying to add extra signatures and online access to the account for one small group we gave up once we had the extra signatories assigned. That took over a year.)
 

LNW-GW Joint

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I'd be less against it if I received quality service at booking offices, and Merseyrail ones have a particularly bad reputation for this. I've never used Hooton booking office so you may be one of the good ones, but so many of them are, I'm afraid, terrible.
To pipe up for Hooton, they are a good bunch in the ticket office, and know their way round the national ticket system - I often buy a Lancs/Cheshire Day Ranger, or tickets for obscure day trips.
But the inner counter (2 desks) has closed, so you just get the one window to talk through instead of a semi-social space (this may be down to covid).
If there was a TVM I'd used that all the time, same as everybody does for the (local authority) car park.
Steve Rotheram has said they will move to e-tickets, but it didn't sound as though he was in a hurry.

Also, it's a bit late with post #293 but shouldn't the thread title have at least a question mark at the end?
Ticket office closure is not a done deal and could take many forms.
Really, until something definite appears, it's speculation.
The non-DfT TOCs (like Merseyrail, TfW, Scotrail etc) will have their own plans anyway.
 
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AlterEgo

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That's a fair point, and I'd tend to agree, but I was assuming (possibly wrongly) that part of the impetus for closing the offices was to reduce staffing costs. From a cost saving point of view I could see it being hard to justify redeploying people to roles which don't generate much revenue.
I think that move would result in fewer staff on the payroll. A booking office which has three staff on duty could be covered by one or two general station staff - don’t forget there are also dispatchers and other station staff who might be rolled into that role.
 

Killingworth

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In my home town one bank went over to machines and advisers only with no cash handling. It hasn't closed yet, but it lost many account holders to other nearby banks who will handle cash. Their advice was go to the Post Office to deal with cash. With 20 minute queues already that wasn't an attractive idea. One bank who still handle cash thought they had gained over 200 accounts in a few weeks. Many smaller heritage groups still rely on cash and cheques. ( After experience trying to add extra signatures and online access to the account for one small group we gave up once we had the extra signatories assigned. That took over a year.)
All the bank branches to the south and west of Sheffield have closed so no service at all. HSBC at Chesterfield no longer seems to deal with cash directing customers to central Sheffield or the Post Office.

Some statistics on UK payments and methods from June 2021 are here; https://www.ukfinance.org.uk/sites/default/files/uploads/SUMMARY-UK-Payment-Markets-2021-FINAL.pdf

Cheques were supposed to have been phased out by 2018 but look set to be with us until 2030 or later.
 

Bletchleyite

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Cheques were supposed to have been phased out by 2018 but look set to be with us until 2030 or later.

The issue with cheques (from the point of view of receiving them) has been dealt with by way of cheque imaging, i.e. people can present them by taking a photograph of them, and no physical bank is needed to deposit them.

Not every bank offers this, but if your bank doesn't offer a service you need, change banks. It's really easy with the switching service.
 

py_megapixel

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You'd also need to develop the software, but you'd only need to do so once.
You'd barely even need to do that. It could be effectively a big Android tablet running the same app that is offered to the public, with some minor customisations (i.e. taking card payments from a card reader rather than entering a number, and printing the ticket from a thermal printer).

A specialised system with custom software supplied by the hardware manufacturer is not needed for the task of running a simple UI and then printing a barcode and some text on a bit of paper, and I think if TOCs really believe it is then they are being fleeced.

One thing that particularly surprises me is that lots of TVMs run Windows. I realise a Windows license is a tiny proportion of the cost of a TVM, but it must be a tremendous waste of money if you add it all up.
 

yorkie

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One thing that particularly surprises me is that lots of TVMs run Windows. I realise a Windows license is a tiny proportion of the cost of a TVM, but it must be a tremendous waste of money if you add it all up.
When making comparisons, you'd need to take care to consider the total cost of ownership (TCO); open source operating systems (OSs) still need to be configured, maintained and supported.
 

py_megapixel

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When making comparisons, you'd need to take care to consider the total cost of ownership (TCO); open source operating systems (OSs) still need to be configured, maintained and supported.
I suppose it might be better in that respect. But it does still seem improbable to me that TVMs couldn't be brought down in cost by using off the shelf kiosk hardware and the ticket sales apps that already exist - if the estimates often quoted on this forum are accurate, then they are tremendously expensive for what they are.
 

Watershed

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I suppose it might be better in that respect. But it does still seem improbable to me that TVMs couldn't be brought down in cost by using off the shelf kiosk hardware and the ticket sales apps that already exist - if the estimates often quoted on this forum are accurate, then they are tremendously expensive for what they are.
They're tremendously expensive because there is a (comparitively) very small market for a highly specialised piece of hardware that requires accreditation, must be accessible, weatherproof, vandal-proof etc.

A machine that was essentially a large-screened version of the kinds of apps you can get on your phone (or the website you can access on your computer), using an off-the-shelf 'till roll' printer, would no doubt cost less.
 

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