Tube Bosses embark on PR blitz over ticket office reductions

Johnson campaigned against ticket office closures and opening hour reductions
Johnson campaigned against ticket office closures and opening hour reductions
London Underground bosses have today published an ‘open letter’ to passengers setting out the case for Boris Johnson’s controversial plans to reduce the opening hours of Tube ticket offices ahead of a briefing with Trades Unions on Thursday.

Earlier this month Transport for London and London Underground set out plans to reduce the opening hours of ticket offices in the wake of increasing levels of Oyster take-up, the capital’s electronic ticketing system now accounts for 80 per cent of all journeys on the Tube network.

News of the plans led to opposition politicians and Unions accusing Mayor of London Boris Johnson of breaking an election promise after he campaigned against both closures and reduced opening hours in 2008’s Mayoral elections.

In 2007 former Mayor Ken Livingstone announced that LU would close almost half of “the most lightly-used” ticket offices after Oyster had led to “a huge reduction in the number of customers buying tickets at our stations”. At the time Oyster journeys accounted for around 60 per cent of all Tube journeys.

During the 2008 campaign Johnson signed a petition against closures and opening hour reductions and in his election manifesto wrote: “Ken Livingstone plans to close a large number of ticket offices at Tube stations, predominantly in outer London because he claims that the increase in Oyster use has made them surplus to requirements. However, what he has not taken into account is that local people feel it is important there is a manned ticket office at their station, as often there are not enough Oyster outlets in the local area.”

Asked by Labour Assembly Members at last week’s Mayor’s Question Time whether his apparent u-turn meant Livingstone had, after all, been right, the Mayor claimed to have “no idea what the position of the previous Mayor was on this”.

Defending the current policy TfL say there’s been an increase of approximately 1700 Oyster outlets since early 2008 when Livingstone’s planned closures would have taken effect with the total number now standing at around 4,000.

Ahead of today’s meeting London Underground’s Chief Operating Officer Howard Collins has published an open letter to customers and staff making the following three commitments:

1. There will always be staff present at every station to help customers
2. All stations that currently have a ticket office service will continue to have one
3. There will be no compulsory redundancies

LU have also issued a graph – see below – illustrating how the number of ticket sales at offices has declined since 2004 while the number of journeys has increased.

Despite the assurance that all stations will continue to have a ticket office, a number of so-called secondary ticket offices are being earmarked for closure according to an internal TfL document leaked to the media last week. These are:

Aldgate East (East)
Canary Wharf (East)
Chancery Lane (Saturday)
Charing Cross (Trafalgar)
Earl’s Court (Warwick Road)
South Woodford (West)
Waterloo (Main – Excess)
Waterloo (Shell)
Wembley Park (Bridge Road)
Woodford (West)

AUDIO – Boris Johnson denies any knowledge of Ken Livingstone’s policy on ticket office closures despite campaigning against them
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Open Letter from Howard Collins

London Underground’s Vision for a Safe, Frequent and Reliable Tube

London Underground is investing billions to transform the Tube. We’re committed to doing this in a way which builds on our excellent and improving safety record, and delivers more frequent and reliable Tube services.

Let me be absolutely clear – safety is at the heart of our vision to transform the Tube and we make the following commitments to all of our customers and staff:

1. There will always be staff present at every station to help customers
2. All stations that currently have a ticket office service will continue to have one
3. There will be no compulsory redundancies

We are proposing to reduce ticket office opening hours because our customers are just not using them as much as they used to. Use of ticket offices is down around 50 per cent on five years ago. Today, only 1 in 20 journeys starts with a visit to the ticket office and this number continues to decline. 80 per cent of all Tube journeys are now made using Oyster.

So we don’t need or want our staff to be stuck behind glass in under used ticket offices; we want them out on our stations where our customers need them – on platforms, in ticket halls and at gate lines.

We know that many of our customers still value the services provided at ticket offices, particularly at busy times. This is why we are committed to ensuring that every station that has a ticket office will continue to have one, open regularly and at the busiest times that make most sense for that station. Customers will also always be able to top up their Oyster card or purchase a ticket at any time at all our stations, at the 4,000 Ticket Stops across London, or online.

In addition to our ongoing commitment to having staff where customers need them most, there are also more police patrolling the Tube network – 700 officers – than ever before. This helped to reduce crime by eight per cent last year. While one crime is always too many, there are now just 12 crimes per million Tube customer journeys.

We’re also installing more and improved CCTV cameras on stations and trains, to more than 14,000 in years to come, to help us look after you.

All of this must be done in a way that delivers the best possible value for money for Tube customers and taxpayers.

It’s a fact that, like any public service, we have to be as efficient as we can, particularly in the present difficult economic times. It’s true we are reducing the number of staff we have overall; but by putting our staff in the areas they are most needed, we can do this without affecting your journey or compromising your safety.

So let no-one be in any doubt – the safety of our customers and staff is our number one priority. All stations with a ticket office will continue to have one and all of our stations will continue to be staffed at all times.

Howard Collins
Chief Operating Officer

Find out more, including our proposed ticket office opening hours, and about our plans to transform the Tube at www.tfl.gov.uk/tube.