I would like to inform the House of the decision that has been made in relation to London Midland’s application to change Schedule 17 of the Ticketing and Settlement Agreement (TSA), which was referred to the Department for Transport for arbitration.
The TSA sets out the various arrangements between train operators relating to the carriage of passengers and the retailing of tickets. London Midland’s proposal was to change the minimum opening hours of a number of ticket offices, including the closure of nine offices altogether. These changes would not affect the level of train services in any way.
I have decided to approve London Midland’s proposal in part, but reject some elements where the case for changes has not been made. Ticket offices at Small Heath, Jewellery Quarter, Bescot Stadium, Duddeston and Adderley Park, which were proposed for closure, will remain open. However, I have agreed four of the nine proposed ticket office closures, at Wythall, Witton, Lye and Cheddington.
Several ticket offices will have their opening hours extended, while a number of other stations will have their ticket office opening hours reduced. A full list of the changes has been published on the department’s website.
In arbitrating this decision, we were careful to ensure that the proposal was in line with the criteria set out in the TSA, whereby passengers continue to enjoy widespread and easy access to the purchase of rail products, and that the proposal represents an improvement in terms of quality of service and/or cost-effectiveness.
I have also ensured that no particular group of rail users is affected disproportionately by the changes, particularly passengers with disabilities.
The changes reflect the change in the way passengers are buying tickets, with more choosing to purchase their tickets online or at ticket vending machines, and the changes that have been approved will not generally affect stations during periods in which the ticket office is currently selling more than 12 tickets an hour.
As a condition of the changes, London Midland will also be required to provide a total of 29 additional ticket vending machines at stations that do not currently have this facility. This will be an improvement in availability at stations where the ticket office is currently only open part-time, with passengers in future able to purchase tickets whenever they wish to travel.
We have also ensured that London Midland will keep lifts in operation when stations are unstaffed. LM will also improve safety and security at stations, including through the provision of upgraded CCTV at 11 stations and will provide additional shelters and upgraded signage as a condition of this approval.
In addition, London Midland will invest in 30 new train boarding ramps to improve access to trains for wheelchair users. Passengers who require assistance in making their journey can now book this via the new industry website, which was launched by the Association of Train Operating Companies on 24 August.
There are currently many ticket offices open for very long hours, while selling very few tickets indeed. In an era where passengers are telling us that they need fares to come down and investment in services to rise, these sorts of costs simply cannot be justified.
These changes will provide savings to taxpayers and passengers far beyond the life of the existing franchise, and will ultimately save millions of pounds. I believe that this is a necessary step in improving the efficiency of the rail network, and reducing the cost of rail travel for everyone.