Rail ticket staff reduction criticism

Transport chiefs have branded a reduction in staffing levels and ticket office opening hours at West Midland rail stations as “terrible news” for passengers.

Centro, the region’s transport authority, said it was “extremely disappointed” at a Government decision to allow train operator London Midland to make the controversial changes.

The office at Lye railway station, near Stourbridge, will be closed.

The station at Bescot Stadium will keep its office alongside Small Heath, the Jewellery Quarter, Duddeston and Adderley Park will have reduced hours.

Centro’s lead member for rail, Councillor Roger Horton, said: “Passengers tell us they like to see a staff presence at stations because it makes them feel safe.

“Not only do staff perform a critical role in customer service but they act as a deterrent to criminal or anti-social behaviour. You don’t get that from a ticket machine.

“This decision does nothing for passengers. It is a great pity that London Midland and the Department for Transport did not adopt our solution that would have delivered operational efficiencies and, most importantly, have met the needs of passengers.”

Centro, along with watchdog Passenger Focus and more than 18,000 passengers, MPs and other individuals, opposed the staffing reductions when they were first proposed by London Midland last year.

In pushing forward the staffing reductions, London Midland pointed to the recent McNulty Report which looked at how Britain’s rail network can be made more efficient and cost effective.

However Centro chairman Cllr John McNicholas said “London Midland recently said that reducing staff will not save them any money.

“If that is the case we fail to see why they did not listen to the 18,000 passengers and disabled groups who objected.

“We also fail to see what possible benefits there are to London Midland, the Department for Transport, or, most importantly, the passengers in driving through these changes.

“I can fully understand if passengers feel angry. They are entitled to be.”

London Midland said fewer than half of tickets are bought over the counter with many selling online or at vending machines.

The reductions in opening hours will be concentrated at the beginning and end of the day or on Sundays and commercial director Richard Brooks said most passengers would notice no change.