The services being run by Northern Rail and First Transpennine Express are currently going through the franchise system. Companies are competing with each other to produce the best deal so that they can run the services in the coming years.
One issue that keeps coming up during discussions around these bids is staffing. There has been talk of driver-only trains and ticket office closures in an effort to cut costs.
While I appreciate the need to keep costs low in order to provide good value to customers, I don’t think that these ideas reflect the reality of many people’s experiences with our local trains.
Ticket options can be confusing without someone there to talk to either on the train or at the station, particularly for those who travel less frequently. Of course there is demand for information and sales to take place in other ways, I’m not saying no to exploring alternatives, but there are people who just want someone to talk them through the options when they arrive at the station and we shouldn’t close off the service to them.
I’m concerned about access to the railway for those with mobility problems if there’s no staff around to assist them. With nobody in a ticket office at the smaller stations and nobody on board, who’s helping to put out a ramp or just lend a helping hand to someone unsteady on their feet? Are people going to have to let the train companies know days in advance exactly which trains they’ll be catching so that they can get a member of staff there?
Plus, with no conductor on board, who will ensure the safety of passengers during an emergency situation or just provide a calming presence if a tense situation arises between travellers?
Before the Parliamentary recess I signed Early Day Motion 147 (which you can see here) to express my support for these roles and ask the Government to value customer service as part of the franchise process and not just who can run things the cheapest.
What do you think about these ideas? Do we still need conductors and ticket offices or have they had their day? Leave a comment and let me know.