Portsmouth railway station ticket office closures up for debate as city councillors express their concerns

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City councillors will debate controversial proposals to close staffed ticket offices at railway stations when they meet on Tuesday (October 17).

A motion will be proposes councillor Matthew Winnington and seconded by his fellow cabinet member councillor Darren Sanders which, if passed, would see the council’s new chief executive write to both the transport secretary and South Western Railway calling for the planned closures to be dropped.

Cllr Winnington will say that if they went ahead they would “disproportionately affect disabled, deaf and older” people and warned it could lead to the “de-staffing” of stations.

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The proposal to close all ticket offices is included in a consultation launched by South Western Railway earlier this year and is mirrored by other train companies in response to changes in government guidance.

Portsmouth and Southsea Railway StationPortsmouth and Southsea Railway Station
Portsmouth and Southsea Railway Station

“To modernise our retailing offer, we are proposing to transition our station colleagues to new multi-skilled roles with a clear focus on helping our customers,” the consultation document said. “Our proposals will create a single team on each station, working together to help customers with different aspects of their journeys from journey planning to ticket purchasing.”

In Portsmouth, this would affect the Cosham, Fratton, Portsmouth & Southsea and Portsmouth Harbour stations.

Speaking this summer, the council’s cabinet member for transport, councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, described it as “a very retrograde step”.

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“It’s going to mean that people won’t be able to pay with cash and we know that there are large numbers of people who don’t have bank accounts,” he said. “There’s also a considerable concern that some fares are only available online and that people who we would like to tempt onto trains are now frightened of doing so.”

The motion would follow on from letters written by Cllr Vernon-Jackson and seeks to add weight to the council’s case through new chief executive Natalie Brahma-Pearl.

The motion says: “This council believes that ticket offices provide a vital service to residents in Portsmouth and support passenger safety, security and accessibility.

“Having a central place in the station for people requiring advice and assistance provides certainty and confidence for customers who may struggle to otherwise locate station staff and also acts as a point of safety for passengers.

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“At many stations, access to facilities such as toilets and waiting rooms is reliant on ticket office staff.

“Not all residents are able to use ticket vending machines or online ticketing platforms.”

On top of the two letters, the motion requests all councillors to support the retention of ticket offices.

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