Constituency ticket offices to remain open
Following the public consultation undertaken by Southeastern and London TravelWatch, it has been decided that the Chelsfield and Knockholt ticket offices will remain open.
The Government had made clear to the rail industry that proposed reforms needed to meet a high threshold of serving passengers.
Ministers engaged with accessibility and passenger groups throughout this process. Given that the industry has not met the expected threshold, the Government has asked train operators to withdraw proposals to close ticket offices.
I welcome not only this decision, but the Government’s insistence on plans needing to meet a certain standard in the best interests of passengers.
As many of you know, I promoted the consultation on my social media to encourage as many local responses with the anecdotes and concerns that had been shared with me personally about what such changes might mean.
I met with Southeastern to put forward residents’ objections and mitigation requests directly with them, notably on accessibility and staffing hours.
This change probably means that the Travel Centre programme will not be proceeding as originally planned, but I continue to see the value in such proposals for Orpington as a regional hub and commuter town with direct links to the City. With that in mind, I will be raising its prospects when I next meet with Southeastern to examine local upgrades.
More widely, there is a lot of positive change happening with our local rail infrastructure, most significantly the Access for All scheme which has opened at St Mary Cray station and is shortly due to open at Petts Wood station. It is important that future improvements are considered holistically for our area as a whole in the best interests of residents.
However, the nature of how we travel post-pandemic, and the rise of digital technologies for paying fares, are still developing trends.
It is crucial that, going forward, franchise operators and stakeholders ensure that they work to properly explain any new proposals, ensure appropriate safeguards, and bring passengers with them.