News that all 190 stations across the South Western Railway (SWR) network are to lose their manned ticket offices has left one local rail campaigner steaming from the ears.
Included in the proposed closures are ticket offices at Alton, Bentley and Farnham stations on the Alton line, as well as Petersfield, Liss, Liphook, Haslemere and Witley on the Portsmouth line.
It comes after the government unveiled plans last week to bring forward proposals from Rail Delivery Group (RDG) – an industry body representing private railway operators – to axe up to 1,000 ticket offices nationally.
SWR has launched a public consultation on the changes, which it said would result in “more face-to-face support for customers, greater visibility of colleagues throughout stations, and a higher proportion of colleagues trained to support customers with their retail choices”.
But Railfuture member Peter Desmond-Thomas, a former member of the now-defunct Alton Line Users Association and retired civil servant, believes the closures will make taking the train a less attractive proposition and have security implications for stations.
He said: “Alton is a terminal station serving a wide hinterland.
"Alton Station, apart from 'peak time' traffic, has a considerable tourist/off-peak footfall; interfacing with the heritage Mid Hants Railway.
"Alton is home to the world-renowned Lord Mayor's Treloars College for the disabled – members of whom regularly use the ticket office for travel and for 'booking' assistance.
"Alton compared with the mean has a high preponderance of older people than for an average town of its size (population 20,000) who are only comfortable with a face to face service for assistance on the right ticket to purchase.
"Its regular booking office staff are highly regarded.
"The ticket machine outside the station is unreliable; its screen unreadable on sunny afternoons.
"Conclusion: travel footfall, particularly discretionary/'elective' travel is likely to decline if face to face booking is no longer available."
SWR’s consultation document reveals 43 per cent of the operator’s stations are already unstaffed, which Mr Desmond-Thomas believes reveals where the operator is going wrong.
He continued: "Nearly half of the network is without on the spot advice, assistance, and the assurance of personal security; and vandalism deterrence.
"No wonder then that the 'modern' railway is an unattractive proposition, notwithstanding its general unreliability, lack of comfort, and the staff disputes leading to strikes that are seemingly never ending.
"So much then for the government seeking successfully to persuade us to leave the car at home and 'let the train take the strain' as the erstwhile British Rail advertising campaign encouraged, all now of course to serve the universal nudge to reduce pollution emissions."
The RMT trade union has also announced a wave of protests against the ticket office closures at stations across the country.
South Western Railway ticket offices (in alphabetical order):
Addlestone, Aldershot, Alton, Andover, Ascot (Berks), Ash, Ash Vale, Ashford (Surrey), Ashtead, Ashurst New Forest, Axminster, Bagshot, Barnes, Barnes Bridge, Basingstoke, Beaulieu Road, Bedhampton, Bentley, Berrylands, Bitterne, Bookham, Botley, Bournemouth, Box Hill and Westhumble, Bracknell, Brading, Branksome, Brentford, Brockenhurst, Brookwood, Bruton, Bursledon, Byfleet and New Haw, Camberley, Castle Cary, Chandlers Ford, Chertsey, Chessington North, Chessington South, Chiswick, Christchurch, Clandon, Clapham Junction, Claygate, Cobham and Stoke d’Abernon, Corfe Castle, Cosham, Cranbrook Devon, Crewkerne, Datchet, Dean (Wiltshire), Earley, Earlsfield, Eastleigh, Effingham Junction, Egham, Epsom Surrey, Esher, Ewell West, Exeter Central, Exeter St Davids, Fareham, Farnborough (Main), Farncombe, Farnham, Feltham, Feniton, Fleet, Fratton, Frimley, Frome, Fulwell, Gillingham (Dorset), Godalming, Hamble, Hampton London, Hampton Court, Hampton Wick, Hamworthy, Haslemere, Havant, Hedge End, Hersham, Hilsea, Hinchley Wood, Hinton Admiral, Holton Heath, Honiton, Hook, Horsley, Hounslow, Isleworth, Kempton Park Racecourse, Kew Bridge, Kingston, Lake, Leatherhead, Liphook, Liss, London Road (Guildford), London Waterloo, Longcross, Lymington Pier, Lymington Town, Malden Manor, Martins Heron, Micheldever, Milford (Surrey), Millbrook (Hants), Moreton (Dorset), Mortlake, Motspur Park, Mottisfont and Dunbridge, Netley, New Malden, New Milton, Norbiton, North Sheen, Overton, Oxshott, Parkstone Dorset, Petersfield, Pinhoe, Pokesdown, Poole, Portchester, Portsmouth and Southsea, Portsmouth Harbour, Putney, Queenstown Road (Battersea), Raynes Park, Reading, Redbridge, Richmond (London), Romsey, Rowlands Castle, Ryde Esplanade, Ryde Pier Head, Ryde St Johns Road, Salisbury, Sandown, Shanklin, Shawford, Shepperton, Sherborne, Sholing, Smallbrook Junction, Southampton Airport (Parkway), Southampton Central, Staines, St Denys, St Margarets (London), Stoneleigh, Strawberry Hill, Sunbury, Sunningdale, Sunnymeads, Surbiton, Swanwick, Sway, Swaythling, Syon Lane, Teddington, Templecombe, Thames Ditton, Tisbury, Tolworth, Totton, Twickenham, Upper Halliford, Upwey, Vauxhall, Virginia Water, Walton-On-Thames, Wanborough, Wandsworth Town, Wareham (Dorset), Warminster, West Byfleet, Westbury, Weybridge, Weymouth, Whimple, Whitchurch (Hampshire), Whitton (London), Wimbledon, Winchester, Winchfield, Windsor and Eton Riverside, Winnersh, Winnersh Triangle, Witley, Woking, Wokingham, Wool, Woolston, Worcester Park, Worplesdon, Wraysbury, Yeovil Junction, and Yeovil Pen Mill.