Ticket offices don’t just make stations safer, they make it easier to get the best deal on tickets, and help a whole range of passengers access the railway – they are also essential to our communities. Time and again we’ve heard from passengers and members who tell us that ticket offices are at the centre of their local communities, bringing people together and creating a sense of pride in the local area.
In the below blog post, Chindra Kaur, a TSSA member who works as a ticket clerk at Southeastern, shares her experience working in the ticket office at Swanley Station:
The ticket office at Swanley Station is at the heart of our local community. I have worked as a ticket office clerk since September 1994. Over the years I have come to know my regular passengers and customers, local school children, and people from all walks of life. Closing our local ticket office would be devastating for our community.
People may think that I just sell tickets, but all ticket office staff will know that our role is much more varied, and we provide all manner of support for people.
A lot of my customers are not IT users and do not like to use the ticket machines, for these people it is vital that they speak to a real person rather than a machine. The same applies to passengers with a range of disabilities. At the ticket office I help a range of rail users, from foreign visitors who don’t have English as a first language, to those who don’t know the geography of the local area, group travellers or large families – all these passengers prefer to speak to a real person for reassurance and to get the best deals and advice.
I worry that my regular customers who buy season tickets or railcards will miss out on the best deals without ticket office staff to guide them, so the money will be taken from local people and go straight into the pockets of the rail bosses.
At Swanley Station, I go above and beyond to help the community and foster a sense of local pride. I love drawing and each morning school children approach my window to ask for one of my pictures that I have drawn on TVM roll ticket (the end of roll that is usually just discarded), in return these children will draw pictures for me. I have grown to know these local families and they often come to local events I organise, such as a recent Cultural Lunch. This community involvement really took hold during the Coronation of King Charles, where the children showed their love for drawing.
I have set up a walking group from Swanley Station - I have 12 Community Walkers, who are also passengers, we have a mixed group of ages and abilities. Some of the walkers have disabilities that affect their everyday life. This group were all passengers on the railway, from talking to them regularly we realised that we all share a love of the outdoors and nature.
I have many customers who for various reasons do not read or write, they regularly approach my window to ask me to read their letters for them. They have confidence in me as they have known me for so long and feel comfortable approaching me.
The ticket office is a central meeting point for a lot of customers for help, advice, and reassurance. Many parents have told me that without ticket offices they would worry for the safety of their children who regularly take the train to school. I’ve had female passengers express worries about personal safety at the station if the ticket offices close. CCTV will never be a replacement for the safety that ticket office staff provide.
My fear is that the Conservative government and train companies see closing ticket offices as a way to make a quick profit – they do not care about the safety and well-being of ordinary people and the pride and spirit of local communities.
If everyone in our community comes together, we can make the government think again and save our ticket offices!