I have been contacted by constituents about the Proposals to Close Rail Ticket Offices, including Bletchley Station.
As the Member of Parliament for Milton Keynes South, I have included below my response:
It is no secret that rail travel needs modernising to meet the needs of customers choosing to travel by train and to keep up to date with new technologies. For example, we are seeing more people buy their tickets online prior to the journey. However, we cannot exclude those who still rely upon a ticket office to speak to someone about their rail travel.
In particular, the current proposals for Bletchley station would see the ticket office close and replaced with a “mobile team”. While I accept that the staff currently employed in the ticket office could be better deployed in a platform or concourse role, I do not believe that only having a mobile team is sufficient.
With that in mind, and not knowing what level of service is likely to be provided to customers, it is not possible for me to support these proposals as they stand.
There is insufficient detail as to when such a mobile team would be in place, nor what “upgrades” to the ticket vending machines might be in place. Even as a customer who is relatively knowledgeable about services and tickets, I find the machines are not user-friendly and it is sometimes difficult to find the most suitable ticket.
I believe there is a case for having a full-time customer information provision of the type that is envisaged for Milton Keynes Central. The reasons for this include the following:
- The arrival of East West Rail will increase the number of services and passengers through Bletchley station significantly. It will also become a significant interchange station between the WCML and EWR and many customers will require advice/assistance.
- Over the years, sadly, the station has been the location of a significant number of railway suicides. A concourse/platform assistant would help prevent future such attempts.
- The station is a gateway for the nearby Bletchley Park Museum, Stadium MK and The Bowl and I regularly see visitors approach the ticket office for advice on how to get to the locations. A permanent customer assistant would be helpful.
Also, the Transport Select Committee, which I chair, has recently scrutinised the proposals at a Public Session of the committee. In attendance at the session on 13 September were operators, charities, organisations and Government Ministers. You can find a copy of the transcript from the session here: https://committees.parliament.uk/event/18989/formal-meeting-oral-evidence-session/
Following that session, I shall be writing to the Rail Minister and others to highlight the shortcomings of the proposals and to suggest alternative options.
If you are not a constituent of Milton Keynes South, you might also wish to raise specific points with your Member of Parliament.