Mossley Town Council is a properly constituted local authority within the provisions of the Local Government Acts and associated legislation.
The members of the Council are concerned over the proposals to remove the “ticket office” facility from Mossley Station.
In short, the councillors consider that this is a serious and dangerous reduction of service on a number of levels, which will impact the opportunities for freedom of travel, undermine the provision of the principles of public transport and presents a totally misleading and unfounded rationale for the changes proposed.
The Council in making these comments understands, that whilst keen to represent concerns about Mossley rail users, this is a problem which will affect many thousands of people over the whole network. The Council stands in unison with those who oppose this.
Locally we have a wider impact on the line passing through Mossley, where stations like Ashton under Lyne, and especially Stalybridge with its role as a connection and hub across country, mean that the whole wider Tameside community is adversely affected.
The ticket office staff provide a key source of information about the whole network and understand the impact of service changes and alterations through delays and incidents and are able to constructively offer valuable advice to travelers at the point of known contact and ticket purchase.
The reduced hours of just 07:00 to 09:00 Monday to Friday means that the vast majority of leisure passengers will have no member of staff on hand for help while the reduced Saturday hours of 09:00 to 11:00 means that weekend anti-social behaviour will become more likely. These proposed hours take no account of the actual arrival and departure times which are largely between xx:15 and xx:20.
The idea that this is a flexible service as proposed is flawed. It does not allow for different hours of work, of the ability to realistically deal with enquiries as they arise and the flexibility claimed cannot be achieved by placing an individual where at some times, they will not be able to deal with competing demands of users and station work.
The idea of the staffed station as opposed to a ticket office system is not a panacea for improving service, where the two roles of ticket and station staff, whilst not exactly mutually exclusive, actually need to be enhanced to achieve the idea of flexible improvement. In other words, the objective to improve the presence on the station cannot be achieved by simply changing a role, it needs a fuller and more effective presence than the current part time operation.
The move to a ticket only vending machine brings (TVM) a whole range of issues of exclusion, confusion and inconvenience. The machine cannot provide personal advice and guidance. It allows only a limited range of ticket options, reducing the ability to purchase tickets for other stations journeys.
Some options, like season ticket and GM County Card options are not available at ticket machines. If these are limited to online purchase, that is a clear reduction in accessibility and creates difficulties for those less able to access the internet for whatever reason.
Online services may well be an increasing aspect of society, but the potential for exclusion through the above should not be a part of the fabric of public services. A ticket does not run out of battery or is subject to network outages and technical issues.
The proposals do not take into account those with disabilities, including sight impairment. Whilst the presumption is that staff attendance on the station will enhance this support, in effect the reality is that the member of staff can be anywhere on the station and not available to deal with the person where the difficulty is, at the point of ticket purchase and opportunity to provide advice.
Refunds and exchanges are out. It is not clear how these will in future be processed as even the main station at Manchester Piccadilly is being proposed for closure. A clear reduction in service and lack of flexibility.
It is claimed that moving staff out of ticket offices will reduce antisocial behavior, but the greatly reduced staff hours, just two hours per day Monday to Saturday, will not provide this.
The evidence for change is not transparent. The Rail Delivery Group website on this consultation say that
88% OF CUSTOMER SALES ALREADY HAPPEN WITHOUT CUSTOMERS SETTING FOOT IN A TICKET OFFICE
This has its basis in online sales and carried out remotely. We do not dispute that there is a considerable volume of these purchases, but this proportion does not appear to address and explain the sections of customers who purchase tickets at the office for specific categories, which in themselves carry considerable weight of activity for different sections of the community. For those, once again may be misrepresentation of the circumstances. Even a minority can be very significant, moreover the disproportionate impact on those is unspecified and apparently unresearched and therefore available for scrutiny, let alone proper assessment in the construction of this proposal.
AN ESTIMATED 99% OF TICKET OFFICE TRANSACTIONS COULD HAVE BEEN MADE AT TICKET VENDING MACHINES (TVMS) OR ONLINE LAST YEAR. WHERE NEEDED, TVMS WILL BE IMPROVED.
Thiseems an incredibly compelling statistic, but which in itself sows the seeds of doubt. There is no detail, information about categories of tickets purchased and the idea that “could have” begs questions, as this is hypothetical and not related to reality. The idea that TVMs can be improved seems a lightweight answer to a problem which is again ill researched and badly presented. TVMs need to be improved before any proposals to close ticket offices are implemented.
The figures produced by Northern show that there is still a considerable percentage of tickets purchased with cash (around 19%) which are bought through the ticket office at Mossley. These statistics are more relevant and telling in a true rail user profile than the above “headline” figures present.
The proposal is not an improvement, not an alternative to a properly thought-out service which supports the whole community and not the limited and cost-focused objectives of the Treasury.
We call upon the operators to provide clear and transparent information, including statistics, parameters for assessment and rationale for the proposals.
Mossley Town Council therefore calls for a halt to the consultations until the above is provided and that a proper timescale for further consultations is agreed.
We also suggest that in the interest of public service, let alone accountability and transparency, the Rail Delivery Group and associates agree to a public event where any proposals can be properly explained.
In producing this statement, Mossley Town Council acknowledges the input and advice of the experts from MORAG (Mossley Rail Action Group).
MORAG are asking that residents go to their Facebook page and join their group to support the campaign for improved rail services. They also carry on their page local information and insight into the issues on the rail services.
The consultation can be found at; Customer Focused Stations (raildeliverygroup.com)
Mossley Town Council