Epsom train enthusiast Peter Mugridge with train tickets he buys ahead of travel
Last week, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) announced it would close 81 ticket offices across the country from June this year – including those at Epsom, Leatherhead and Ashtead outside of peak hours.
The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) condemned the move, calling it a ‘wave of ticket office carnage’ and said GTR ‘doesn’t give two hoots’ about customers.
Mr Mugridge said the ticket office closures would 'make life difficult' for him
Peter Mugridge, from Miles Road, Epsom, who once travelled 5,500 miles by train across Britain for charity, said everyone on an online train forum, RailUKForums.co.uk, was against the idea.
The 49-year-old said: “A lot of people prefer to deal with a human and as things stand the alternative technology is not yet fully capable of replacing people.
“Machines cannot deal with everything, and the portable devices used by roving ticket staff have their own limitations.
“I’m not the only one who feels this way – the other day at Epsom I bought some tickets at lunchtime for future travel.
“Both windows were open, and the queue was four or five deep.
“Next to the queue were the four ticket machines; only two people were using them.
"That speaks volumes.”
Under the new plans, when the offices are closed, each station would have a ‘station host’ out in the concourse to sell tickets, provide information and help passengers use the ticket machines.
One RailUK forum user wrote: "I'm sure that, with enough investment, hand held ticket machines could replicate ticket office machines. But at the moment they don't."
Another said: "What are you supposed to do if the ticket you want isn't available from the self-serve machines?"
Epsom's most prominent train enthusiast said he's been riding the rails for 37 of his 49 years
Epsom and Ewell borough councillor Eber Kington said the decision was inevitable.
Coun Kington said: “You’ve got the contactless buses now from London and I think eliminating people from the process is just the way things are – technology is progressing.
“The only thing you can hope for is that the train companies either pass the savings back onto the customer – or they use the extra savings to invest in and improve the services.”
A spokesperson for GTR said it wants to modernise the way it operates for the benefit of passengers. The spokesperson said: “Where sales from ticket offices are low, we want to bring staff out from behind the windows and on to the concourse to work where they’re needed most, as station hosts, providing assistance and helping sell tickets from ticket machines and their own handheld devices.
“All the affected stations will be staffed for longer as a result – at all but two they would be staffed from the very first train of the day to the very last, seven days a week.”
Rail bosses have faced repeated criticism over the last month for its poor service, leading to Transport for London announcing it would take over London’s entire suburban rail network by 2021.
MPs are continuing to call for Southern and Thameslink to lose its franchise sooner than 2021 if it cannot improve its service.
Last week a national survey revealed Thameslink and Southern customers had the lowest and third lowest customer satisfaction ratings, respectively.