Queuing for an hour = “world-class customer service”?

The Evening Standard has published research by the TSSA union revealing that Tube passengers now have to queue for up to an hour in some stations where ticket offices have closed.

Read the Standard article here, or see the text below.

With London Underground’s closure programme now almost complete, the reality of stations without ticket offices is becoming clearer, and it certainly doesn’t measure up to the standards of “world-class customer service” that LU said it would deliver

The closures are also making life harder for staff, and discriminate particularly against many disabled workers, as LU is effectively abolishing seated roles.

With a Mayoral election on the horizon, unions and campaigning groups should mobilise to re-raise this issue. If LU really wants to provide “world-class customer sevice”, it should reopen ticket offices.


Tube stations where people have to wait for up to an hour just to buy a ticket

Passengers are being forced to queue for up to an hour following recent ticket office closures across the network, finds survey

Dick Murray, Evening Standard, 11 November 2015

A “list of shame” revealing Tube station “black spots” where passengers frequently have to queue for half an hour or more to reach the ticket machine was revealed today.

The machines are replacing ticket offices across the network to save cash and provide a better service for passengers, London Underground (LU) says.

The lists includes Victoria where passengers – frequently foreign visitors to London – sometimes have to queue for up to an hour.

Other stations where passengers are forced to play the waiting game include Euston, King’s Cross St Pancras, Liverpool Street, Heathrow, Earl’s Court and Finchley Road.

Staff who took part in the survey made a series of findings for each station. They include:

  • Euston: “There are long queues all day.”
  • Liverpool Street, where ticket offices were closed on October 19: “The deterioration was immediate.”
  • Victoria: “There are dreadful and dangerous bottlenecks of passengers.”

The situation is so bad that LU has been forced into using crowd control barriers that manage people into “snake-like” lines as they wait to buy tickets.

The survey was compiled by the TSSA white collar and managerial union, whose members work in the stations where they have to try and help and frequently calm down frustrated and angry passengers.

Manuel Cortes, the TSSA leader, said: “This is not what a 21st century London should be inflicting on its Tube passengers or its visitors.

“Our members on the front line are reporting queues of half an hour or more – this is day in and day out.

“Tempers are fraying out there. People are being driven mad by the long queues and so many visitors to London are being affected it is a cause of national embarrassment.”

The union ordered the survey to illustrate its concern over the closing of Tube ticket offices across London to save money.

Plans to axe ticket offices at virtually all the Tube’s 278 stations were revealed by the Evening Standard more than two years ago.

As the closures continue more and more passengers are being forced to use the machines. The TSSA has lost hundreds of members as the plan continues to axe those who worked in the ticket offices.

Mr Cortes added: “We warned against closing ticket offices. In his election manifesto Mayor Boris Johnson pledged he wouldn’t close them. Another promise he didn’t keep.”

He called on the Mayor and LU to reverse the cuts programme.

“The chaos is utterly avoidable and easily reversed  by halting the rolling closure of ticket offices and reopening them immediately in the gateway black spots.”

When LU decided to close ticket offices it said they were used on only three per cent of journeys and promised more staff on station concourses to help out.

It said: “More and better ticket machines will be introduced as part of a strategy to make life easier for passengers.

“The changes to the operation of stations and improvements to customer service will be delivered while also reducing the overall cost of running stations, to provide better value for money for customers and tax payers.”

Mr Johnson, in his 2008 election manifesto paper “Getting Londoners Moving” pledged he would make transport more convenient “by halting the proposed Tube ticket office closures and ensuring there is always a manned ticket office at every station.”

Steve Griffiths,  LU’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “Over three-quarters of stations now operate without a ticket office and customer satisfaction is at an all-time high.

“Contactless payments and Oyster mean the vast majority of journeys no longer involve the need to buy a ticket. When they do, we now have record numbers of staff trained to help with purchases and advice, as well as new easier to use machines.

“This is making ticket transactions quicker than ever before.

“We are monitoring these changes very closely to ensure our customers receive the best possible service. If any customers have concerns at any stations we encourage them to report it to us and we will investigate.”

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