Update: Rail watchdog backs objections to ticket office cuts in Welwyn Hatfield
AN independent watchdog has opposed without hesitation plans to cut ticket office opening hours at railway stations across Times Territory. As previously reported in the WHT, train operator First Capital Connect (FCC) wants to reduce
AN independent watchdog has opposed "without hesitation" plans to cut ticket office opening hours at railway stations across Times Territory.
As previously reported in the WHT, train operator First Capital Connect (FCC) wants to reduce ticket office hours at 28 of its stations, including WGC, Welwyn North, Knebworth and Cuffley.
Rail unions and passenger groups have urged commuters to complain and now London TravelWatch, which represents the interests of travellers in and around the capital, has decided to take action.
At a board meeting last Tuesday, bosses agreed to write to FCC and formally set out their objections to its plans.
Sharon Grant, chairman of London TravelWatch, said: "We have had hundreds of representations from passengers, including many from Welwyn Hatfield, and all but a few objected to the closure of the ticket office at their local station.
"People are deeply opposed to de-personalisation of public services. It is clear that people value ticket offices and do not want to use ticket machines - they can't answer passenger's questions and many people find it difficult to use them."
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She added: "We have no hesitation in objecting to this proposal."
The news has been greeted enthusiastically by commuters.
Peter Neville, for the Welwyn North Rail Users' Group, said: "We did object strenuously to TravelWatch to the proposal to reduce the hours of manning of the Welwyn North station booking office.
"Therefore I'm greatly encouraged by TravelWatch's decision to uphold our objections, which means that the rail company's proposal has to be referred to the Department for Transport (DfT).
"TravelWatch said some very positive things about the importance of staff being there when we go to a railway station, and I hope the DfT will heed TravelWatch's comments."
Stephen McPartland, for Stevenage and Knebworth Rail Users' Group, said: "We wholeheartedly support the objection.
"We are vehemently against the plans to reduce ticket office hours at Knebworth."
A spokesman for FCC said: "We believe each station proposal matches the ticket sales demands at each station.
"This would see ticket offices open at peak times with a variety of ways to purchase a ticket and with excellent security."
He added: "The DfT will take on board the feedback from London TravelWatch and make its decision on this basis.