Byline: NICHOLAS CECIL
A MINISTER today effectively slammed the door on the mass closure of ticket offices by rail companies across London and the South-East.
Lord Adonis ordered the capital's biggest rail operator, South West Trains, to radically scale back plans to cut ticket office opening hours at 114 stations.
Unions had warned that if the Government had failed to act, several other train firms would have axed manning at many stations.
The transport minister stepped in to protect passengers from the "unacceptable" cuts. Amid rumours that the train company has already started limiting ticket office opening hours, Lord Adonis stressed today that SWT would be expected to "fully and consistently" staff stations according to his ruling.
The Evening Standard has called for better staffing on the rail network through its Safer Stations campaign.
The proposed cuts by SWT had fuelled the belief among many commuters that train firms are all too willing to sacrifice the service they provide to increase profits. One MP denounced the rail firm for its "greed".
The company is owned by transport giant Stagecoach which saw its interim operating profits increase by 25.3 per cent to [pounds sterling]31.7 million for the six months ending 31 October. It was planning to withdraw staff from 84 stations either '
We acted to protect rail passengers from unacceptable cuts' for Sunday or the whole weekend. The firm, which imposed inflation- busting peak fare rises of six per cent this month and of more than seven per cent for off- peak, was also proposing to reduce weekday opening hours at many others to save money.
But after strong opposition to the moves from MPs, unions and passenger groups, the Government announced it had rejected proposals to reduce hours at offices during times when fewer than 12 tickets an hour on average are issued. …