‘I believe these proposals from the rail operators are deeply flawed …
Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell by Hampden Park Railway Station (Photo: Caroline Ansell)
She said: “I believe these proposals from the rail operators are deeply flawed and will fail to meet the needs of elderly, disabled and less confident rail users.”
In an letter to independent watchdog Transport Focus she added: “I write to oppose – unequivocally – the proposals as they stand by Southern Rail.
“Eastbourne has one of the highest concentrations of over 70s in the country. This generation is disproportionately at risk of being disadvantaged by ever-increasing digitisation.”
The ticket office at Eastbourne Railway Station (Photo: Jon Rigby)
Mrs Ansell, who said the plans are for a ‘partial closure’ of the office at Eastbourne and full closures at Hampden Park and Polegate, explained that following a meeting with Southern Rail her concerns were ‘heightened’.
She said: “It transpired that stations would very likely be ‘less staffed’ and that total staff numbers, varying station by station, would potentially see a drop of between 25-50 per cent.”
The MP added: “A partial opening of the existing office on request sounded to me to be highly impractical. Maintaining the office for just such an occasion would be self-defeating, if cutting costs is one of the policy objectives? A dedicated desk on the concourse, another proposal, will be a difficult experience for those with hearing impairment due to the high level of ambient noise.
“I learned that there are no planned new and additional machines to accommodate the increase in use.”
Hampden Park Railway Station (Photo: JON RIGBY / PHOTOGRAPHER 07850 9)
Jenny Saunders, customer services director for Govia Thameslink Railway, which runs Southern, said: “The proposed changes reflect how the way customers buy tickets has changed significantly in recent years.”
She added that nine in 10 tickets are now bought away from the office.
Ms Saunders said: “This is a real opportunity to modernise and improve the experience of our customers. Our colleagues would continue to have a really valuable role in helping passengers – these proposals aim to enhance the excellent work they do.”
She explained that no station staffed today would become unstaffed, Southern would continue to provide accessibility support and assistance, and no final decisions have been made.
Transport Focus added that along with London TravelWatch it will publish a response to each train company’s proposals.