Exit the ticket office?

A four car train at Rye station

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 .


  1. I am partially blind, and cannot see the contrast on the screen of the ticket machine, so rely on the ticket office and its invariably helpful, friendly staff. They do more than issue tickets – they provide information on travel routes and times if you are going further afield than just the stations SE Rail serves. I have noticed people who presumably have normal eyesight encountering problems with that screen when the sun shines on it directly. There is not always a conductor on the train from whom I can purchase a ticket. Maybe Southeastern Rail could jettison those recorded announcements everyone is sick of hearing such as the “See it, say it, sorted” litany, to invest money in retaining ticket office staff.

  2. We’ve been contacted by the Marshlink Action Group, asking about this article. There have been no proposals announced about ticket offices but the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operating companies across the UK, has made the following comment:

    “The pandemic has been an unprecedented financial shock to the railway. While no decisions have been taken over ticket offices, with the acceleration of changing travel patterns and more passengers migrating to digital technology, many jobs will need to change to become more passenger-centric. Train companies want to work with unions on how to address those changes, while making sure the industry takes no more than its fair share from the taxpayer.”

    • I wonder whether at the time of Stephenson’s Rocket in 1830, people were aware that it would take almost another 200 years for railway jobs to become ‘more passenger-centric’. If you intend to make staff redundant, Rail Delivery Group, then use plain English, and say as much. Good grief.

      This is what the Rail Delivery Group states on its website: ‘Rail is fundamental to the country’s prosperity – the combination of public and private investment has led to enormous growth. Britain’s railway is increasingly important in connecting workers to jobs, businesses to markets, and people to their families and friends.’

      ‘We have a long-term plan to secure a stronger economy, better customer journeys and more rewarding jobs on the railway. Our commitments will set Britain’s railway on a course to deliver more for customers, communities, the economy and our people.’

      How closing the ticket office in Rye would achieve that, I really do not know.

  3. The problem with losing the ticket office will just encourage more train jumping,since there is nobody on duty at the station, since they did away with someone in charge on the platform,train jumpers have been having a field day, getting off small train platforms like Rye,with nobody checking their tickets, at the end of the day its false economy.

    • I would hazard a guess (I have no inside knowledge) that the loss of revenue due to Fare Dodgers is more than offset by the saving gained by getting rid of a person employed to sell tickets.

    • why would getting rid of the person inside the station building sat in the ticket office twiddling their thumbs have any impact on fare dodging? Tickets are only ever checked ON the train (or via barriers at stations that have them).

  4. There’s still no substitute for a human voice or a human face on many occasions. And frankly, often, it’s much quicker and more efficient to speak to an actual human being. On Saturday, I was concerned about a long train journey on Sunday. I dropped into the ticket office and was met by the perennially congenial and efficient Mo, who quickly assured me there were no engineering works affecting service. One of Rye’s unsung heroes! How long would that have taken online?

  5. As a regular user of Rye station, it’s not once even occurred to me to go inside and see if there’s someone in the ticket office. I use the machine, which is perfectly easy to operate, and if the queue is big for that, meaning I’d miss my train (or if it was out of order, which has never happened when I’ve wanted to use it) I buy a ticket from friendly conductor on the train.


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