Rail ticket offices set for chop?

Wigan North Western Station

Wigan North Western Station

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TRAIN chiefs have denied they are planning to close ticket offices at five stations across Wigan.

Railway trade union leaders fear that more than 30 railway ticket offices in Greater Manchester could be axed under a coalition government cost-cutting drive.

Bosses at the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) say they have uncovered a £1bn saving ‘hit-list’ of 675 stations nationally that would be left unstaffed with ticket dispensing machines only - including 114 in the north west.

They say the list appears in a report drawn up by Sir Roy McNulty on how to achieve savings in the railway industry. It was not published in the executive summary and was buried in the small print in a review hundreds of pages long.

Now TSSA leader Gerry Doherty is calling on transport secretary Philip Hammond to reject the ‘draconian cuts’.

He said: “Not only are unmanned stations less secure, tickets bought from machines are usually more expensive.” And he warned that many women passengers in particular would be discouraged from travelling because they would feel less safe.

Wigan’s surburban train operating company Northern Trains operate staffed ticket offices at stations including Wigan Wallgate, Hindley and Atherton.

Union bosses say one in four ticket offices in England and Wales could close in total - with the loss of more than 1,000 jobs.

The government is expected to respond to the report, which says the railway industry could save £1bn a year, by early autumn.

Virgin Trains say that none of the station ticket offices they manage, including Wigan North Western, are included in the McNulty report

But a spokesman for Northern Trains said: “The McNulty report is a wide-ranging and significant study into rail industry costs and we along with other partners are giving it the serious and detailed consideration it rightly deserves.

“We have no immediate plans to close any ticket offices.

“However we recognise that passengers have differing preferences for how they buy their tickets.

“Over recent years we’ve improved our ticket offices and installed more ticket vending machines as well as launching our online ticket sales facility.”

She added that they will continue to enhance their retail options for passengers, acknowledging that it is not ‘one size fits all’.”

The TSSA union are standing by their interpretation of the report and are now launching as an “SOS – Save our Station ticket offices” campaign which will tour the party conferences over the next four weeks urging MPs to save ticket offices in their areas.

A spokesman for the Department of Transport said: “We are considering the findings of Sir Roy McNulty’s inependent report and any of his proposed changes to rail fares or ticketing will be examined as part of a government review.