National ticket office consultation launched: EMR asks for views about plans to modernise customer service across rail network

Monday, 7 August 2023

East Midlands Railway (EMR) will join train companies across the country this week to launch a public consultation to move staff from ticket offices and into stations, offering more face-to-face support for customers across the network as a whole.

Where adopted, the proposals will see ticket office staff transitioning to multi-skilled ‘customer help’ roles - already in place in many parts of the network - where they would be better able to give advice about the best and cheapest fares, support customers with accessibility needs and to help customers board and alight from trains.

The changes would mean a more visible and accessible staff presence overall in stations during staffed hours, on ticket concourses and on platforms.

The proposals would help bring station retailing up to date from the mid 90’s, when the rules on how to sell tickets were set and before the invention of the smartphone. Back then, over 80% of all tickets were sold at ticket offices, compared to just 12% nationally and less than 5% at EMR stations on average today. Bringing staff out from offices would allow the railway to respond to that generational shift in customer behaviour, in common with many other industries and organisations that have long since done so such as Transport for London, most airlines and many banks and supermarkets.

Independent passenger watchdogs Transport Focus and London Travel Watch will facilitate the 21 day consultation for passengers, which could see the closure of a number of ticket offices across the network as staff move out from behind the glass.

Those wanting to contribute to the consultation and share their views can do so by emailing their views to [email protected] or writing freepost to RTEH-XAGE-BYKZ, Transport Focus, PO Box 5594, Southend on Sea, SS1 9PZ.

For more information about people can have their say can be found at ;

The consultation closes on September 1.

The consultation is being launched against the backdrop of long-running industrial action by rail unions RMT and ASLEF over changes necessary to bring the railway up to date and make it sustainable in the long term, with revenue continuing to languish at 30% below pre-pandemic levels nationally.

As RMT talks stalled due to their refusal to put a pay and jobs guarantee offer to its membership, train companies must now move ahead with essential reforms that are a prerequisite for the funding of any pay rise train companies would wish to give to staff.

EMR is committed to smoothing the transition of moving staff closer to customers, and the proposed changes would be phased in gradually. Ticket selling facilities will remain open at the busiest stations and interchanges, selling the full range of tickets while the transition takes place.

Following these changes, if a customer is unable to buy a specific ticket before boarding the train because it was unavailable at the station, they would be able to buy one during their journey, at a ticket office en-route, or at their destination.

Alongside the public consultation on ticket offices, a range of options will be created for staff affected, including moving to a new skilled role and comprehensive re-training and re-skilling, and EMR will continue to engage constructively with unions at a local level to manage the transition in a way that works best for staff.

Informed by extensive and on-going engagement with accessibility, safety and passenger groups, rail companies are also unveiling a series of pledges for rail passengers about the proposals.

They are:

*Across the network staff will be available at the right time, in the right locations according to customer demand
* Customers will be able to purchase tickets prior to boarding through a variety of means
* Customers will still be able to purchase tickets onboard in the way that they do today, including on rural services

* Those with accessibility needs will always be supported
* All rail staff will be treated fairly and their new roles will be more varied and engaging

Stations without ticket offices already make up over 70% of those operating across the EMR network. Nationally, stations without ticket offices already make up 43% of those operating across the UK, with a further 40% being staffed part-time. In some cases, those ticket stations are purpose built and supported by a passenger reception desk. In other cases ticket office facilities have been converted into community hubs, coffee shops and cafes while staff support customers closer to gate lines.

The reforms will not affect EMR's ability to provide assistance to those needing wheelchair and mobility support from staff, either on demand at the station or by booking in advance.

RDG CEO Jac Starr said: “The way our customers buy tickets have changed and it’s time for the railway to change with them. Our proposals would mean more staff on hand on to give face to face help with a much wider range of needs, from journey planning, to finding the right ticket and helping those with accessibility needs.

“Our commitment is that we will always treat our staff, who are hugely valued, fairly, with support and extra training to move in to new, rewarding and varied roles and we will never compromise on safety. We also understand that our customers have differing needs which is why train companies will be consulting widely with accessibility and passenger groups to take on board their views.”