West Midlands rail chiefs refuse to support train ticket office closure plans - here’s why

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West Midlands Rail Executive have spoken out against proposals to close rail ticket offices in and around Birmingham

West Midlands transport chiefs have declined to support proposals to close rail ticket offices across the region.

In an official response to a public consultation, which has been extended to September 1, on the changes put forward by train operators - including West Midlands Railway - the West Midlands Rail Executive (WMRE) and Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) said they could not support the proposed closures due to insufficient information around how passenger needs would be met.

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Their response also sets out a formal objection to plans to close the ticket office at Birmingham New Street. However the regional rail chiefs agreed, in principle, on the need to modernise the way stations are managed and staffed.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMRE Chair, said: “Modernisation of ticket retailing, if implemented appropriately, could help improve the experience of passengers. Perceptions of station security could also be improved by having more staff on platforms and concourses, giving more support for those passengers with additional needs.

“So, while WMRE and TfWM are supportive in principle of the need to modernise rail ticketing there are too many concerns unanswered in these proposals for us to support them as they currently are. Any changes to ticketing must be for the benefit of passengers but both WMRE and TfWM believe there is insufficient information in these proposals to satisfy that crucial requirement.”

In addition to West Midlands Railway other the closure of rail ticket offices was also put forward by London Northwestern Railway, Chiltern Railways and Avanti West Coast (AWC).

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West Midlands trainsWest Midlands trains
West Midlands trains

Under the proposals, train operators running services in the West Midlands would close ticket offices and either redeploy staff on to platforms, giving them additional customer service duties, or concentrate ticket office staff into centralised teams to serve stations on a roving basis.

Why West Midlands rail chiefs are objecting to the closure of ticket offices

Concerns set out in the response from West Midlands rail chiefs include:

  • Insufficient information on how passengers with mobility issues and other impairments would be catered for
  • Different approaches to ticket office provision set out by the various train operators leading to an inconsistent approach across the region and possible confusion for travellers
  • Insufficient information as to how often mobile ticket teams would visit each station, or whether there would be dedicated hours when staff were available

As part of the official response to the consultation WMRE has also asked for assurance that the more detailed concerns raised by the accessibility group “Transport for All” are considered and addressed before any changes are implemented.

The response points out that while WMRE and TfWM appreciate that the train operators have provided Equality Impact Assessments, there remains concerns that these assessments are inconsistent and do not appear to fully address how the specific needs of individual passengers will be met.

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Cllr Mike Bird, the WMCA’s portfolio holder for transport and leader of Walsall Council, said: “It’s vital that any changes to ticketing result in sufficient staff being on hand to meet the needs of passengers. These proposed changes could affect tens of thousands of West Midlands passengers, so we are pleased the consultation has been extended to give people more time to have their say.

“We would encourage anyone who uses the rail network in the West Midlands and is concerned about these changes to make their views known through this consultation.” The public consultation can be found at: Rail ticket office consultation

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