Settle Station ticket office

The closure of Settle Station ticket office is being considered in the McNulty Report on value for money in the rail industry, published in April this year.  As Chairman of the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line, I have written to the Editor of the Craven Herald as follows:
 
"Your article on the possible closure of Settle station ticket office has caused some consternation in the town and surrounding area. Rightly so, if it were a foregone conclusion. However, our understanding is that the train operating company, Northern Rail, is required to keep the station open under the terms of its franchise agreement which runs until the end of 2013 and may be further extended.
 
The McNulty Report that you refer to was commissioned by the previous government to look at ways of getting improved value for money from government subsidies to the rail industry. It will form the basis of a white paper later this autumn, at which point we shall know the Government's intentions for certain.
 
The Settle-Carlisle Railway is unique and there are special reasons for keeping Settle station open. For one, a large number of tourist groups, often including elderly and infirm people, board the trains at Settle and many of them need assistance and supervision while crossing the track. If the station were unstaffed tourist numbers could be greatly reduced, to the detriment of the local economy.
 
The Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line have been considering the implications of the McNulty Report since it was published in April and are actively working on a business plan to safeguard the retention of staffing at Settle station. For full details of McNulty's proposals and information on our activities see our web site, www.foscl.org.uk."
 
 
The full text of the relevant section of the McNulty Report, hidden away on page 200, reads:
 
"There are over 2,500 stations on the GB rail network categorised from A, which are the largest stations and regarded as national hubs through to F, which are the smallest, unstaffed, stations. Categorisation depends on size, facilities and usage. Fifty-three per cent of stations are staffed.
 
Around 5,500 staff work on retail activities, of which 37% (approximately 2,000 people) are employed at small- and medium-sized stations.
 
The Study has found that the provision of retail staff is disproportionate to activity. Smaller stations account for 24% of passenger footfall. Retail productivity is lower at smaller stations, with approximately 3.5 staff per million passengers compared with 1.5 at Category A stations.
 
At smaller stations retail staffing is largely driven by the contracted opening hours of ticket offices, whereas at larger stations sales volume is such that resourcing can be better matched to demand.
 
At smaller stations the majority of ticket sales take place in a three-hour period between 07:00 and 10:00, but many ticket offices are open much longer. Category D station ticket offices are open for an average of almost 13 hours on weekdays and category E for 10 hours. TOCs do not have the freedom to change opening hours as these are contractually fixed by the TSA. Opening hours can only be changed with DfT approval, which historically has been granted on only rare occasions.
 
The industry has been slow to exploit the benefits of developments in retail technology compared with sectors such as retail and banking. Ticket vending machine (TVM) technology is developing with a focus on simplicity and speed of use, and the proportion of sales through self-service machines grew from 10% to 17% between 2006/07 and mid-2010. The advent of internet-based retail is also changing the face of retail on rail. Combined internet and call centre sales rose from 10% in 2006/07 to just over 16% in mid-2010.
 
The use of Oyster Smartcard technology in London has demonstrated that a high volume transport network can move on from a piece of cardboard as the authority to travel. E-ticket/print-at-home, used by the airline industry, is gaining a hold in the rail industry, while m-ticketing, with the authority to travel carried on a mobile/handheld device, is also penetrating the market, reflecting expansion in the wider retail sector.
 
It has been argued that the staffing of ticket offices affects perceptions of personal security. The Study regards value for money in retail and security as separate issues. Passenger Focus research shows that customer concerns over safety and security increase after 20:00 hours. This may be a reflection of societal concern generally about security during the evening hours rather than being transport, rail or station specific. There is no evidence from National Passenger Survey data that TOCs with the latest closing times for ticket office achieve higher customer satisfaction in respect of station security.
 
The Study has considered how to ensure that the opening of ticket offices reflects demand and changes in retail channels and technology."
 
 
 

Last updated by Richard Morris on 10/01/2014