Labour campaigners are ‘dismayed’ at plans to close or downgrade ticket offices at railway stations in Worthing, Shoreham and Lancing.
Govia Thameslink Railway, which runs both Southern and Thameslink services, announced a consultation on future staffing of its stations earlier this month, but the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) called proposals a ‘disgrace’ and has launched a campaign to ‘stop them in their tracks’.
This week Labour’s Worthing and Shoreham branches said its members were ‘dismayed’ at proposals, which could see ticket selling at both Lancing and Shoreham-by-Sea relocated on to a ‘station hosting point’ on the concourse.
Meanwhile other stations such as Angmering, Barnham, Littlehampton, and Worthing would keep their ticket offices open at peak times, but during off-peak times they would be closed and ‘station hosts’ would operate instead.
Labour campaigner Jim Deen said: “The cuts will leave stations understaffed all the time and unstaffed some of the time, particularly in the evening and at weekends.
“Passengers using the stations will be left without the support and help they expect, and many will feel less secure with no staff around.”
He argued that replacing staff with ticket machines would inevitably limit the quality and range of services available.
He added: “Independent rail user surveys consistently show that passengers value having staff around and that their journey experience would be much worse without them.”
But GTR said that affected stations will be staffed for longer as a result of bringing some of their staff from behind windows on to the concourse, explained there would be no compulsory redundancies as part of the plans, which would have to go through full public consultation before being implemented.
A spokesman for GTR said: “We want to modernise the way we operate approximately 80 of our busier stations across Great Northern, Southern and Thameslink for the benefit of passengers, many of whom now buy their tickets online, or use Oyster, contactless and smartcards.
“Where sales from ticket offices are low, we want to bring staff out from behind the windows and on to the concourse to work where they’re needed most, as station hosts, providing assistance and helping sell tickets from ticket machines and their own handheld devices.
“All the affected stations will be staffed for longer as a result – at all but two they would be staffed from the very first train of the day to the very last, seven days a week.
“This will drive other customer benefits – we’ll also be able to increase the opening hours of facilities passengers have told us are important, such as waiting rooms, toilets and lifts.”
Labour members were out in Shoreham on Saturday collecting signatures for a petition against the proposed closures, and will be joining rail unions TSSA and the RMT in campaigning to keep the ticket offices open.
Last week Mick Cash, general secretary at the RMT, said: “The plans have sparked a storm of public outrage and the union will step up the fight as the company now regroup. We have no intention of allowing these plans to be bulldozed through and Govia should be forced to pull the proposals in their entirety.”
This comes weeks after both Thameslink and Southern ranked among the worst rail franchises for passenger satisfaction in a national survey carried out by Passenger Focus.
Meanwhile MPs from across Sussex raised the poor performance of services with both GTR and Network Rail at a rail summit in Westminster last month.
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