Tube Ticket Office Closures: The Story So Far

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 30 months ago
Tube Ticket Office Closures: The Story So Far

Transport for London has been closing ticket offices in tube stations since February, with the majority expected to be closed by December. This means passengers are reliant on ticket machines and staff who are now free to roam the halls, armed with iPads to help anyone with problems. We wondered how this was going in practice, and got in touch with TfL.

Obviously, they're keen to emphasise the positive aspects of what they call 'ticket hall improvement works'. A TfL spokesman told us there will be a 30% increase in the number of staff visible at stations by early next year. Right now, staffing numbers remain the same — although there are plans to cut 838 station jobs. This staffing programme is one of the things under dispute at the tube strike talks.

What's happening to the old ticket offices?

Various things; though one of uses will be as retail space or drop lockers for shops like Amazon or supermarkets. With money from central government being cut, TfL needs to find more income from somewhere and they can hardly put fares up any more. We're told that closing ticket offices (and presumably, saving on staff costs) will save £270m up to 2020-21, and that's without extra revenue from the new shops.

Where do I buy tickets now?

Ticket machines. At least, that's where you get most of your tickets from. If you want to get a refund of more than a tenner from an Oyster card, replace a broken/lost Oyster card that holds a season ticket or buy an annual ticket, you'll need to go to the website, call the helpline or visit one of the seven visitor centres.

One thing we'd wondered about was buying annual season tickets with a company cheque — for those companies who like to keep their staff perks old school. Turns out TfL is solving that problem in a different way: from 6 September, company cheques won't be accepted. You'll have to get someone to break out the company credit card, or claim the cost back on expenses, we guess.

What you can do, with recent upgrades, is sort out an incomplete journey if you haven't tapped in or out properly (no more calling the hotline, hurray!), replace a borked Oyster card — though you'll have to find a member of staff to help you — and refund any unused Oyster credit up to £10. We have heard rumours that pickpockets are now treating Oyster cards as cash because there's no ID requirement for small refunds, but we imagine Oyster cards have always been a useful five-fingered 'bonus'.

What happens if the machines break or I can't find anyone?

We did ask TfL what the average time taken to repair machines is; we didn't actually get an answer to that, but were told there's a team on standby ready to fix machines if they develop a problem that can't be fixed by station staff.

TfL insists that by closing ticket offices, staff will become more available. Is it working? This is something we'd like you to tell us. Offices at London Bridge, Waterloo, Charing Cross, Bank and Oxford Circus — to name a few busy stations — have closed already, and the final one at King's Cross closed this Sunday. Do you use these stations? How are you finding it?

Last Updated 25 August 2015

Les Bennett

It is just a way to save money and get rid off staff. Many older people and visitors from abroad will find it difficult to use machines. I thought major stations would still be able to offer a face to face service? How can Overground be staffing stations from first to last train and Underground be laying them off? Our tube network was once the backbone off a great city, tfl are letting it rot.

WillofTheGods

It has been fine until things go wrong, then it's been hard to find someone to talk to who is in the right bit of the station for you to talk to. Seen wheelchair users struggling at Shepherds Bush.

Jon Millwood

My season ticket loan from my place of work just gets paid into my payroll. Then I use the extra cash to buy the ticket online and then email the receipt to finance to prove I bought it (if I don't then they deduct the full value of the loan in next months pay). A previous employer bought the ticket for us and we collected from the cash office (they had an account with trainline.com. Never had to use a company cheque for an annual travelcard.

simon

More space & yet no extra ticket machines. Quite astounding really since two members of staff at a window and the tickets machines helped during peak times. One suspects that the extra space will be leased out for retail.

Ian Shacklock

I stand by the comments I made last year...
http://www.camdennewjournal.co...

Delta Sierra

So screw you if all you have on you is cash?

Lynigan

I recently had to travel all the way to Stratford to find an open ticket office as TFL couldn't add my annual travel card discount to my oyster card online and told me I had to do it at a ticket office. Sounds like a plan to make sure you can't get your discount in the future?

Stanka Duchonova

This is how Joseph Rotblat ended his talk, with words he had used when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize:

'The quest for a war-free world has a basic purpose: survival. But if in the process we learn to achieve it by love rather than fear, by kindness rather than compulsion; if in the process we learn to combine the essential with the enjoyable, the expedient with the benevolent, the practical with the beautiful, this will be an excellent incentive to embark on this great task. But above all, remember your humanity.' ... what happened to our humanity?

Jack Gordon

King's Cross' 'final' ticket office is still very much open, just to put the clarification out there...

DanFilson

Not sure you've asked the right question. Commuters travel on autopilot and rarely need a ticket office.

It's the casual traveller and tourist unfamiliar with London who make up the queues at the shrinking remaining number of ticket offices. Arguably their assistance needn't be behind behind glass as often the query doesn't involve selling tickets, but it is indeed about cutting staff to save money. I'm not sure whether this is the best area to save money. For one thing TfL should shake off its liming for underground cathedrals and overground glass box stations. For another the top salaries HAVE to be restrained until it can be proved that £650,000 p.a. (or whatever) gets you better decisions than £100,000 less. Far from evidenced. Meanwhile long term strategy is lacking transparency if it even exists. What is TfL's long-term solution to the very different riding heights of the Bakerloo and Overground lines at Queen's Park and stations northward? When will platform-street be made easier at Kensal Green station with its current 46 steps? TfL seems to do nthe easiest lift installations first without any mention of how it will do the tougher ones into the indefinite future.

MJL

As a regular US visitor to London, I always used the ticket window since U.S. Credit cards without chip and pin (we've just gotten chip and sign) don't work at the machines. Even the chip and sign won't work at machine, I think (and that is the U.S. Standard for cards). It will likely be fine for locals, but tourists, at least from the U.S., will now have to pay cash.

AusterityIsSuchALonelyWorld

Just not sure taking staff from a defined location where they can be easily located is making them more visible. Perhaps they mean visible at the job centre.

Clunking Fist

Using machines in France and Italy was pretty simple, so no doubt foreigners will cope just fine. If they can get their heads around the network, the machines should be easy. Stop thinking foreigners and old people are stupid.

Ann Verity Heerey

It's way better in my opinion - people don't try and queue for ages for help, they try and figure it out at machines. Which means if you actually do need a station worker to do something fancy at a machine for you (like add a railcard to your oyster) then it's done much faster and it's much easier to get their attention! Plus you can always just have a nice conversation with them at the barrier ;)

Vic Hall

My Wife and I were entitled to Privilege Travel with our British Rail staff travel card. On enquiry at Embankment Station we were told we could no longer get reduced rate travel. We will find this to come hard as retired people on low income. Won't be using the underground anymore.

Kyle Rolton

So here's my 2 pence, TFL is a modern extortion racket and they are a law unto themselves. As has been stated the money saved from ticket offices is so small saving money is not their motivation and never has been. Making money is their only priority, and we all know it, every year they hike prices to improve services etc etc. I've never seen any of these improvments worth the hike, yes nice new station with gleaming walls and shiny new escalators and while I completley understand the need to update stations and maintain or replace parts I would think with the extoritant fares we have already done this.

Big bonuses and economy damaging strikes show clearly the heart of TFL and it's always about the money. I'll admit that I don't have any statistics but as far as I can see pretty much everything they do is a complete joke. It's all well and good saying ticket office closures will lead to a more efficient and expediant service which is true as long as you don't need a ticket office.

I recently went through Finchley Road tube station to see 5 members of staff doing nothing and standing next to a sign saying ticket office closing due to staff shortages. At many stations outside of zone 1,2,3 i've found a mostly non existant staff presence. As a typical London commuter I tend to travel often in busy periods so a reduction in queues is not something i have ever noticed as it's still always busy getting through the machines. Ticket offices queues that seem to be taking so much flak only ever affected those in the queue, their closure has made absolutley no difference to my normal journey.

Paying by cash while i believe it is becoming less regular it also happens that the one cash machine at most stations (there are always fewer) are usually the faulty ones. Be that maybe becaue they actually get used a lot or because they have more moving parts perhaps and therefore more can go wrong? Either way it's not good enough.

To say that tourists won't have problems because you can get by in other countries or because they're not stupid etc is again irrelevant. I've been a tourist including here when I first moved and I incurred charges simply because there was no one to talk to to explain things. Many of the underground staff have no clue or no time to help you, especially during peak times when most people travel. and all this money they are apparently saving are they going to freeze travel prices? Or will it line the pockets of the vile organisers of this project? Any savings will go into 'improving the underground' which will in turn lead to another completly non independant and completley biased review at the end of the year allowing TFL to quote general stats to justify another bonus payment because apparently there where apparenyl less disruptions. Something that would never be reflected in the views of regular commuters. I have seen the times wrong on TFL's site and even let a train go past for the next train which will take me all the way to where i want to go without changing only to find it out of service when it arrives. They can't even get the notification boards right.

London is becoming an international joke, our underground looks lovely in comparison to NYC however theirs runs 24/7 we can't even arrange a meeting with our train network to talk about it going 24 hours over the weekend alone without them striking to say it's unfair and no one has looked at their rights to not only work night shifts. Except it's only over the weekend so surely if on one weekend you had to work nights it would only be 2/3 max? They can't make you work 24hrs and worse the unions sit there and insist it's not about money it's about working conditions as if they're working for Nike in a third world country. Then when the work condition issue is amended to their liking suddenly guess what they want 100 more staff and more money as usual. So what about all the staff from the ticket offices I can't use anymore? What about all the money you just apparently saved by inconviencing me? Oh no those two things aren't related at all.

There needs to be a government office that regulates the crap these guys can pull, that or everyone needs to get together and strike every Monday for a month and show TFL that actually commuters run the transport it is a service of which very little is ever provided. The issue isn't who can and cannot get around easier because of ticket office closures. The issue is why are TFL lying again? Where is this money going? Who is coming up with these figures and where are they getting their information and does anyone talk to the commuters because TFL certaintly don't. And lastly will any union heads or bosses at TFL be taking a pay cut or not recieveing a ridiculous bonus this year?

Now i'm hearing that they are annoyed that the government is trying to impose a condition that will only allow unions to strike once they have a certain percentage of staff who actually want to strike over whatever the issue is. Sounds reasonable to anyone with an iota of intelligence so of course TFL are not having any of it, I mean what kind of world would it be if they couldn't keep striking whenever to increase their wages 3 times a year?
Banks, TFL, Heads of state. Our money, our freedom to travel and our country all three things run by crooks who are out for their own paycheck and all seem to lack any humanity or common sense.