One of the trade unions representing railway staff has suggested that big closures of ticket offices may be on their way – including Rye – and our local MarshLink Action Group is checking out whether this is true.
And I suspect it may be: it is one of many changes as electronic systems replace human beings. But what about those people who do not have access, for example, to the internet (there are rural communities and small towns like that), or do not have/cannot afford the “kit”.
Covid showed that many children could not replace classroom lessons with online tuition because they could not access it, and/or did not have the equipment, and therefore were not able to access these lessons.
And, once upon a time (in this century), I worked in the Cabinet Office in Whitehall where it was policy then that there should always be alternatives to online methods.
“My dog can’t type!”
But that got forgotten over time and, when I was involved in introducing a grant scheme for farmers, it was entirely online until I organised a meeting of a representative group of farmers, not just the big landowners with IT teams – and a lad from Exmoor turned up and said his sheepdog was not very good on the keyboard, and they could not get the internet anyway. So I introduced a paper alternative for those who needed it.
But, as the world moves on, machines take over and people vanish. And on one occasion at Kings Cross St Pancras station a ticket machine failed and it took me 20 minutes to find a member of staff to sort it…and there was a long queue with similar problems.
So I am not eager to see ticket offices close. I cannot use the machine outside Rye station because my brain and fingers are not co-ordinated – a condition called dyspraxia and often found in premature babies (which I was) and ticket collectors on trains may or may not be helpful. During Covid they often kept their distance saying, “Pay at your destination”.
And here in Rye I have also seen people struggling with the new parking ticket machines so I dread the increasing replacement of people by machines. And I hope Rye’s ticket office at the station is not at risk!
Image Credits: J. Minter .