TSSA exposes government claims over ticket office use

Close up of a hand holding a train ticket on a train

Rail union TSSA is today highlighting research showing that ticket office staff sell up to a whopping 360 million tickets a year. 

Station booking offices across England are under threat of closure with the government at Westminster stating that only 13 per cent of all tickets are sold in this way.  

However, figures uncovered by the union – which has many hundreds of members in ticket offices – show that this equates to 150 million rail journeys in the past year. In addition, many passengers purchase their season tickets at ticket offices – meaning as many as a further 210 million journeys stem from sales at dedicated offices.  

*(For more details, please see notes section below)* 

As a result, the union is accusing the government of telling blatant half truths and attempting to deceive the public over the proposed loss of these vital services across England’s railways. 

Commenting, TSSA Interim General Secretary, Peter Pendle said: “The figures we have uncovered demonstrate that ticket offices are as popular and vital to the railways as ever. 

“Huge numbers of tickets are being bought in this way – something Ministers have basically tried to conceal from the public with blatant half truths and deception. They talk of 13 per cent as though it were a low figure when in fact it relates to hundreds of millions of rail journeys.  

“This goes to show that talk of modernisation is merely a fig leaf for redundancies and what would be a poorer service for the travelling public at large.  

“The government’s foolish plans would hit everyone who uses the railways – but most acutely groups such as those with disabilities, limited mobility or young children. 

“Clearly Ministers need to change course and keep ticket offices open given the enduring popularity of service they continue to provide.”  

ORR's Data Portal (Table 1222, Line 43) shows there were 1.446 billion rail journeys in the year to March 2023.    

Excluding season tickets, that means there were a total of 1.236billion journeys. 13 per cent of that is 160,680,000. 

A 'journey' is the equivalent to travel from A to B by train in one direction. This means that for the ticket office, one transaction may be for a single ticket or it may be for a return (two journeys) or some other arrangement.  

The above figure does not include season tickets which could cover a year of return journeys (210.2m) on the above understanding of journeys (but only represent a single transaction for a 12-month season ticket in the ticket office)   

Rail Minister Huw Merriman told the Commons (Thursday 6 July) ‘There has been a huge shift in the way in which passengers purchase tickets at railway stations, with about one in every 10 transactions taking place in ticket offices in 2022-23. That is down from one in three a decade earlier and equates to 13% of rail revenue.’ 

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