diamond geezer

 Tuesday, September 07, 2010

So, this tube strike. The one that's strangling the capital at the moment. What's it all about?

It's about ticket office closures. TfL have some proposals to shrink ticket office opening hours, because far fewer travellers use ticket offices these days. And the unions are unhappy because having fewer staff at stations makes stations less safe. TfL argue that staff are more useful out and about in ticket halls where they can directly assist the public. And the unions reply yeah right, we can see this is really a job cutting exercise, and we hate you. Or something like that.

These closure proposals are nothing new. TfL wheeled them out six months ago and said here's what we're proposing to do next February, let's have a consultation about it. And they published a list showing how they want to cut ticket office opening hours at every station that's still got a ticket office. You probably haven't studied it in much detail. But if you're walking five miles home tonight because of an arbitration-level slanging match, perhaps you should.

Let's start by picking a typical central London ticket office and seeing what the proposed effects might mean...

Leicester SquareMon-FriSatSun

Well that doesn't look too terrible, does it? A bit of trimming in the early hours, before the West End is busy, and closing slightly earlier as services wind down for the day. Whatever are the unions protesting about? But Leicester Square isn't typical. Let's try a station in the City...


Ouch! Monument's having its opening hours well nigh extinguished. From all day on weekdays to a runty hour and a half in the evening rush, then shut down completely on Saturdays and Sundays. OK, so the City gets a lot quieter at weekends, but isn't this a vast over-reaction? No, this is one of TfL's deliberate strategies - to greatly reduce the opening hours at extra ticket halls when a station has more than one. In this case Monument is deemed to be part of the same station complex as Bank, where no such savage cuts are proposed, so anyone wanting to buy a ticket can always walk down King William Street for a few minutes and pay up there. It may not be convenient for would-be passengers, but these aren't officially weekend 'closures'. OK, out to zone 2...

Bow RoadMon-FriSatSun

Bow Road's my local station, and fairly typical of middly-usage stations in the inner suburbs. There's some morning trimback here, notably on Saturdays, but the real impact's later on. Never again will the ticket office be open in the evening, and at weekends it'll shut considerably earlier than that. "How awful," you cry, and yet I wonder how few tickets are sold at Bow Road during these off-peak times. TfL give a hint in their latest press release, where they say "The quietest ticket offices include North Ealing, which sells less than six tickets per hour, and Latimer Road and Moor Park, which sell only around seven tickets per hour". That's much higher than I was expecting, to be honest - six tickets a day would seem better justification for closure. But let's see what they're planning at a similarly quiet station...


Ouch! Proper ouch this time. From pretty much all day to a token opening of little practical value. Those weekend times are particularly hopeless - a single hour, a different hour each day. No doubt ticket sales will tumble even further as would-be purchasers forget when to turn up, and then TfL will use this as an excuse to shut the office completely at weekends come the next round of closures. Because there will be a next round of closures. Most Londoners are swanning around with Oysters, not paper tickets, so what's the point of keeping outlying ticket offices open in case a rogue tourist turns up? And if you want proof, here are the opening hours at the tube's newest station...

Wood LaneMon-FriSatSun

All blank, because Wood Lane was deliberately built without a ticket office. End of the world? Three million passengers successfully used this station last year, so I guess not. If you want to buy a ticket here there's a machine, and a few staff who might be able to help you while you attempt to use it. Possibly not so many staff as there used to be, though, not once TfL's programme of voluntary redundancies goes ahead. The future's in cuts, the future's in do-it-yourself. Walking home from work tonight will be good practice.

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