To agree the TfN response to the DfT Policy position papers on Retail and Tickets.
Lead: Caroline Young/David Worsley
5.1 Members received the report from the Partnership and Programme Manager, who outlined the key points in the report and draft consultation response.
5.2 Cllr Browne highlighted the issue of integrated or combined ticketing, explaining that Cheshire East residents can currently buy a ticket from their local station ticket office to a Metrolink station in Greater Manchester, an option which isn’t available online, at platform ticket machines or on board trains. If they have been unable to buy at the ticket office when they arrive at Manchester Piccadilly, they are treated by the Revenue Protection staff as though they've made a conscious decision not to purchase a ticket. He stated that this will get worse when ticket offices close, as this will remove the only way that passengers can buy one of these tickets before they board the train.
5.3 Additionally, to the point raised by Cllr Browne the Chair highlighted a point raised by Cllr Gannon at a previous meeting where he informed the Committee that lower cost tickets are often not available on the platform machines. The Chair requested that both of these points be included in the consultation response.
5.4 Cllr Hinchcliffe asked if there is a freeze on Ticket office recruitment.
Mr Jackson stated that TPE currently have a number of ticket office vacancies that have been held for some time as they have been expecting industry reform. He further explained that they are now awaiting the outcome of the consultation.
From a Northern perspective Ms Tricia Williams explained that internal consultation has started at the same time as the external consultation. She stated that rather than having a freeze they have taken the decision to backfill on a temporary basis in order to protect roles should there need to be redeployment opportunities for those working in stations. The Committee expressed concern about ticket office opening hours and that operators were staffing offices during the advertised times. The Chair shared anecdotal evidence of closed signs being on ticket office doors when they were meant to be open.
Ms. Williams assured the Committee that they do keep to advertised ticket office times and the only times when this may not happen is when there is sickness.
The Chair requested that a point be included in the document about stealth closures of ticket offices.
The Partnership and Programme Manager noted the points raised and stated that these points would be included in the response document.
5.5 The Chief Executive brought to the attention of the Committee his concerns about the way in which the industry assesses future demand. He highlighted that there is a difference in demand between staffed and unstaffed stations and whilst dealing with this in the context of this proposal it will be something that the Committee needs to return to in the future due to the potential implications it has for business cases and future investment.
He further explained that if the rule books do not change then there may be an argument that the potential demand for investment may not be as high as previously thought. He stated that this is part of a bigger challenge in getting the North's opportunities better reflected in forecasting future demand, which has wider unintended consequences which will need to pursue as a board.
5.6 Cllr Harker stated that in Tees Valley investment has been made in Darlington and Middlesbrough stations to improve connectivity across the Tees Valley to try to encourage more people to use rail. He explained that if money is spent improving infrastructure to then closing ticket offices would take away help that new passengers to rail may need to navigate the network.
The Partnership and Programme Manager informed the Committee that she had spoken to both TPE and Northern on the issue of third parties having spent significant money in improving stations and whether they would consider not closing the ticket offices at these stations. Both operators responded confirming they would not do so.
5.7 The Chair updated the Committee on the current position after receiving a statement from the Rail Minister’s Office which he read to the Committee. The Chair suggested that the Committee should consider asking for no cuts to staffing across the rail system and then have open discussion with the Government about what delivers the maximum benefit for the travelling public.
He further suggested that the box in paragraph 1.2 of the report be strengthened by adding into it that any loss of staffing at stations will lead to loss of confidence amongst passengers. Therefore, it is vital that there is no loss of staffing hours and jobs on the railway before any discussions on deployment can take place.
That subject to the amendments outlined, the Transport for the North response to the consultation and next steps be agreed.