Alnmouth Rail User Group slams plans to close ticket office as 'backward step in customer service'

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A rail user group has spelled out exactly why it is opposed to a proposal to close Alnmouth Railway Station’s ticket office.

Plans to close nearly all ticket offices across the country or vastly reduce their operating hours were revealed by train operators earlier this month.

The shutdowns aim to save the rail firms money, as they say only around 12% of tickets are now bought at stations.

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The public has until July 26 to have its say on the plans, and dozens of rail user groups have vowed to fight them every step of the way, including the Alnmouth Rail Users’ Group (ARUG).

Alnmouth Station Ticket Office.Alnmouth Station Ticket Office.
Alnmouth Station Ticket Office.

In a statement signed by founder Peter Groves, committee member Murray Davies, chairman Richard Fairbairn and secretary Jean Barr, it says Northern’s claims that staffing hours at Alnmouth station “would remain broadly the same” are not true, as the ticket office is currently open until 6pm during the week and 9pm on Sundays.

However, Northern is proposing that its staff in the new Journey Maker role, where they would be ‘available in other areas of the station to help customers face to face with a wide range of needs’, finish at 1pm during the week and at 9pm on a Sunday.

ARUG also says the station is not only used by Northern Trains passengers.

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The statement says: “Alnmouth Station ticket office is an unusual one for Northern, since it sells very few tickets for Northern services and it only runs two services each way a day, Monday to Saturday.

“Its core business is selling long-distance railway journeys operated by LNER and Cross Country who are the predominant users of the station, plus Trans Pennine Express and potential ongoing adjacent other train operators.”

The rail user group says a lot of people who use the station are not “tech savvy”, and therefore need an office to buy their tickets.

It explained: “While it is true to say that customer buying habits for railway tickets have changed in recent years, there remains significant numbers of rail users that regularly use the Alnmouth Railway Station ticket office who are elderly, disabled and less tech savvy.

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"They are unable to use the single self-service ticket machine on the platform, and appreciate the impartiality that Northern staff offer to obtain the best value fare option for their travelling needs.

“These users are unlikely to continue to procure tickets should the ticket office be permanently closed, resulting in the consequent loss of ticket sales revenue for Northern.”

The rail user group has also pointed out that the current ticket machine at Alnmouth is regularly out of order and has a limited range of ticket options.

In addition, staff at Alnmouth do a lot more than just sell tickets.

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The group said: “The ticket office staff provide input in a multitude of additional areas such as a assisting disabled passengers boarding and alighting from trains, controlling use of the station toilet, assisting with health and safety on the station platforms, crowd control, despatching trains, providing updates on delays, providing a reassuring presence, and deterring potential vandalism.”

“For all of the above reasons, the mass ticket office closure consultation and the proposals in particular for Alnmouth are ill-conceived, a backward step in customer service and retention and must be rejected,” the group went on to say.