Thursday, 8 September 2011

The need to keep it Human

Much ado in the press regarding supposed proposals to close huge numbers of rail station ticket offices and leave it all to the machines and the Internet.
Some interesting figures regarding this story have appeared. Over the last 5 years:
- the number of tickets sold through the Internet has risen by 210%
- the number sold through ticket machines has risen by 89%
- the number sold at rail stations has fallen by 12% and now accounts for 35% of all tickets.
But are we really all comfortable with this?
I buy tickets online. Not all of the time, but there are some good deals to be found - but only if you have significant amounts of time to go searching for them, and then are willing to trundle through websites that aren't the easiest to understand. And then you aren't really sure if you've actually got the best deal.
As for ticket machines, fine. But I recall the one at Stourbridge Junction being out of action more times that I would feel comfortable with.
A human being at the rail station around the clock provides reassurance. Removing ticket staff would surely encourage more ticketless travel amongst some who might consider the use of technology far too much hassle to travel from A to B. Public transport should be in the business of doing the very best it possibly can to make travel easy to understand, simple to use and cost-effective. Losing ticket office staff may help the balance sheet, but it isn't going help long-term.
Passenger Focus research regarding London Midland's recent proposals to reduce ticket office hours shows that, overwhelmingly, people value human beings in ticket offices. These further proposals, buried deep in the McNulty report, should be treated with concern and not simply be waved through.
Our ticket office staff a vital and valuable members of the rail network. They shouldn't be sacrificed for autonomous Internet sites and self-service ticket machines.

No comments:

Post a Comment