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Campaign grows to save overground ticket offices from axe

Transport for London say changes are aimed at getting staff in best place to help passengers

29 October, 2018 — By Isabel Dobinson

West Hampstead Overground Station [Oxyman]

TRANSPORT chiefs have been warned that passengers will fight plans to shut a ticket office at a station used by more than five million people a year.

Users of West Hampstead Overground Station, currently being revamped in a £3.9million refurbishment, say the counter service must stay open to help elderly and disabled travellers.

Their objections are part of a wave of opposition to the proposed closure of 51 ticket offices across London, including at Camden Road, Hampstead Heath and Kentish Town West stations.

London TravelWatch, the body funded by City Hall to provide a link between rail passengers and Transport for London, has been deluged by more than 7,000 responses to a consultation survey.

A meeting at its offices in Southwark this week had to be postponed to next month. TfL says the closures reflect changes in the way people pay for travel.

But John Saynor, chairman of West Hampstead Amenity and Transport (WHAT), said: “West Hampstead overground station has an invaluable service for people with disabilities, the elderly and people who simply don’t know how to work the ticket machines.”

He added: “It’s a very busy spot. It has five million passengers a year. In West Hampstead we have a tube station, we have a new overground being built – lots of people pass through all of the time. The station is currently very well staffed by people who are friendly and helpful. We have a feeling of safety. They took away ticket offices in the tube station and now sometimes the barriers are left open.”

Fortune Green councillor Lorna Russell hopes TfL takes notice of the consultation results.

“There are mature and vulnerable passengers who need to know that there are people nearby to help,” she said. “West Hampstead is a big transport hub. There are other stations 100 metres away and people can get confused. “There are often tourists arriving from Luton Airport who need staff to help them. English might not be their first language.”

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) is opposing the closures.

A London TravelWatch spokesman confirmed that the release of its findings had been delayed, explain­ing that its team “weren’t expecting such an overwhelming response”.

TfL has invested more than £3million on refurbishing part of West Hampstead station and there has been speculation over whether a ticket office is still included in the plans.

A TfL spokes­man said one had been included in the designs, but future plans would be guided by a decision on the proposed closures. TfL say that all permanent staff would still have jobs in the new set-up, if the changes go on to be approved.

Its spokesman said: “It’s important to understand that this is aimed at making sure that we have staff in the best places to help people at station, whether that’s in the ticket hall or at the barriers,” adding staff would be on hand to help people finding it hard to use ticket machines.

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