Railway ticket offices in Cardiff have been threatened with closure as part of Government cost-cutting – prompting fears over station safety.
Under a new recommendation, 11 offices normally manned by one or two booking agents could be scrapped and replaced with self-service machines.
Passenger groups have criticised the plan, saying staff presence makes commuters feel safer while many find machines confusing and harddifficult to operate.
The closure recommendation was “buried” in the small print of a report commissioned by the Westminster Government on how to make savings in the railway industry, says a union.
It was highlighted by rail workers’ union The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) which said it found a “hit list” of 675 ticket offices which could be closed in England and Wales
One in four offices in England and Wales could be scrapped, including three in Cardiff – Cathays, Llandaff and Radyr – which, if closed, would see jobs go.
The union’s leader Gerry Doherty yesterday urged Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond to ignore the advice issued by the report’s author Sir Roy McNulty, which comes weeks after announced fare rises.
Meanwhile David Sidebottom, for Passenger Focus Wales, said vending machines offered a “second-rate service”.
He said: “Our research shows that many passengers prefer to use the ticket office to ensure that they buy the cheapest, valid fare.
“Ticket vending machines offer at best a second-rate service – not all machines sell the full range of tickets to all destinations, or any tickets at all to some destinations.
“When we asked what would make passengers feel safer when travelling on the railway, the message from them was clear: increase the presence of visible staff.”
Last night, Geraint Morgan, from South Wales operator Arriva Trains Wales, moved to allay fears saying there were no immediate plans for closure.
“Arriva Trains Wales has no current plans at this time to close any ticket offices or significantly change any ticket office hours at any of our stations across the network,” he said.
Train companies such as Arriva normally need permission from the Department for Transport to close ticket offices but the union said the report recommended this requirement should be scrapped.
And a spokesman for the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) said the proposal was reflective of the fact more people were buying tickets by alternative means.
He said: “There have been big increases in the use of ticket machines, rail websites and smartcards, meaning that around one in three tickets is now bought from station ticket offices.”