Report signals end for ticket office

THE Government has been urged to put the brakes on a proposal to close the ticket office at Morpeth Railway Station.

The McNulty Report was commissioned by the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Office of Rail Regulation to look into how the rail industry can reduce costs without harming services.

One of its recommendations is that category E stations, which typically have only one member of staff working at any one time, should have their staffing removed.

As a result, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association has drawn up a list of stations across England and Wales that it believes would no longer have a ticket office.

And it includes the facilities at Morpeth and Alnmouth.

The South East Northumberland Rail User Group (SENRUG) believes it would be a major blow for passengers if Morpeth lost its ticket office.

Chairman Dennis Fancett said: “In terms of stations where only local trains stop I can sort of see where he (Sir Roy McNulty) is coming from.

“But if the Government decides to look at closing ticket offices, it must take into account that Morpeth is a growing inter-city station that has 15 of these trains stopping every day.

“I suspect the McNulty Report thinks of Morpeth as a local station because it is run by Northern Rail.

“Ticket office staff are important to passengers as they provide help and advice about what tickets to buy and the travel options available. With inter-city services the ticketing system is far too complex to manage without any staff.

“Boards don’t give live running information and updates of what is happening at Newcastle, as often people need to know if they will be able to catch their connecting train or if the ticket they have will be valid for a different train.

“The Morpeth ticket office gives access to the toilets and waiting room so if it was closed these would not be available.

“It would also be wrong to assume that many people in south east Northumberland would buy their tickets online as the area has a low percentage of broadband users compared to other parts of the country.”

Mr Fancett added that the railway industry should be more creative and suggested that some of the facilities could be turned into newsagents or coffee shops which also sell rail tickets.

A DfT spokesman said: “We are currently considering the findings of Sir Roy McNulty’s independent report and any of his proposed changes to rail fares or ticketing will be examined as part of a Government review.”