Transport for London, which is chaired by Boris Johnson, today unveiled plans to cut 750 station staff and close all but six tube ticket offices in London by 2015.
While I appreciate that money is short and the modernisation of ways of working is important, the fact the Mayor believes the closure of ticket offices is the way to go, together with the speed at which he is pushing this through is deeply worrying for passenger safety, accessibility and general user experience.
These proposals will result in the closure of ticket offices across my constituency, including Highbury and Islington, Walthamstow Central, Leyton, Leytonstone, Finsbury Park and Old Street, which will affect people living Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest as they travel around the TfL network.
What makes this decision even more baffling is that Boris Johnson pledged in his 2008 manifesto to make transport more convenient: “By halting the proposed Tube ticket office closures, and ensuring there is always a manned ticket office at every station.”
The mayor was elected on a clear promise to keep ticket offices open. The last thing we need is a reduction in frontline staff. No station should be unstaffed while trains are running and at a time when fares are going up above inflation this is the very least Londoners should expect; TfL and the Mayor could be accused of charging more for worse customer service.
We need to make sure there are enough staff on duty to keep our stations safe, help passengers and deal with emergencies. We must protect standards of service and passenger safety. I believe there should be a Passenger’s Charter clearly setting out what Londoners can expect from their transport system. Passengers must be able to get help with tickets, refunds, information and access must be ensured for disabled people.
Residents living in outer London will be hit particularly hard. Not only are transport fares much higher but if there are no ticket offices open then residents will have to travel into central London in order to top up their Oyster cards or buy tickets at one of the six remaining offices.
I have previously campaigned against the removal of staff from the transport network because of the impact this has on the livelihoods of those losing their jobs, together with its negative knock-on effects on passenger safety – particularly at night – and accessibility for disabled passengers. TfL also needs to provide the documentation that shows that their decision complies with the legally-binding Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED); a duty that means all decisions taken must not impact disproportionately on those protected under the Equality Act 2010 – which includes people with disabilities.
To me, it is patently obvious that the removal of staff will have a negative effect on disabled passengers because there will be fewer staff available to assist them.
Despite previously raising all of this with the Commissioner of TfL, Sir Peter Hendy, and the Mayor, they have repeatedly rebuffed my concerns with platitudes. I ask for them to persuade me otherwise.