Wednesday, 16 March 2011

London Midland Booking Office Closures - Problems for the Disabled

The Campaign for Better Transport is a national campaign promoting the use of sustainable transport such as walking, cycling and the use of public transport such as buses, rail and Metro. We want to see the creation of a transport system that is a real alternative to the private car. I am the chair of the local group for the West Midlands area.

I am writing to advise you and your member organisations about proposed closures and changes to the opening hours of booking offices in the West Midlands area operated by the train company London Midland. LM are proposing to permanently close the booking offices at Adderley Park, Bescot Stadium, Duddeston, Jewellery Quarter, Lye, Small Heath, Witton and Wythall. At other stations LM are proposing to close booking offices either in the early afternoon (e.g. Dudley Port, Tipton) or in the early evening (e.g. Walsall, University, Sandwell and Dudley, Tame Bridge Parkway, Smethwick Galton Bridge).

More information here - http://www.londonmidland.com/your-journey/proposed-changes-to-ticket-office-opening-hours/?=

A consultation exercise is currently taking place, the closing date for which is Tuesday 22nd March 2011.

Our group do not support London Midlands proposals as we feel they will lead to the West Midlands having a much poorer standard of rail service than that currently offered. We believe that rather that doing a proper Job Evaluation exercise looking at the whole tasks a member of station staff will do in the course of a working day, such as providing assistance to a traveller with a disability, London Midland have solely concentrated on ticket sales. They claim where they are proposing to alter booking office opening times there are less than 12 sales per hour.

Access and egress for the disabled to the platforms at Duddeston and Jewellery Quarter stations is via lifts. Currently when these stations are unstaffed the lifts are locked out of use. This means a passenger who needs the lift has to use a help-point to get someone to come to the station and operate the lifts. The help-point is also currently connected to an external call centre, rather than London Midlands control office at New Street in Birmingham. London Midland say disabled passengers should pre-book assistance. Is this actually fair to the disabled - why should they have to "pre-book assistance" rather than have the "turn up and go" service that everyone else enjoys? The railway industry is amongst the most tardy in meeting their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act with the train companies having several derogations, and in coming up with these proposals we wonder London Midland could be in breach of the DDA.

Modifications could be made to the lifts to allow remote operation but it may well end up being cheaper to employ someone at the station, rather than paying for the re-design work.

Another issue is ticket vending machines and permit to travel machines. Where booking offices are closed the machines are the only means a "turn up and go passenger" can use to buy a ticket or permit for their journey. If they do not use the machines and board the train without a ticket they are running the risk of being issued a penalty fare or being summonsed to court for travelling without a valid ticket. The machines London Midland currently operate are not easy to use and do not sell the full range of tickets. This means that passengers could end up paying far more for their journey than they need to. The organisation Passenger Focus conducted some research last year and concluded that the industry needed to make the machines more user friendly. London Midland have told us they have done a re-design of their machines to address some of these issues and they say they will be extending the range of tickets available from the machines. We wonder whether London Midland have consulted disability groups around the region about the design of the machines and their accessibility. Given their proposals to reduce the manning of booking offices we would have thought they should have talked to your member groups as part of the process.

So, there are a lot of issues to consider. Could you circulate this information around the members of your network? We would urge the member organisations of your network to submit a response to this consultation, outlining their thoughts on the propsals. Passenger Focus is handling the consultation and responses can be sent to Passenger Focus, Freepost (RRRE-ETTC-LEET), PO Box 4257, Manchester, M60 3AR or E-Mailed to advice@passengerfocus.org.uk

hould they feel that London Midlands proposals will lead to serious disadvantages for the disabled the members of your network may also want to write directly to the Railways Minister The Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP at the Department for Transport, Great Minster House, 76 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DR outlining their concerns.

I hope you find this E-Mail informative and it will be useful to your members. Should your members wish to discuss this further with me please do not hesitate to drop me an E-Mail or give me a call.



Best wishes,






Kevin Chapman


Chair
West Midlands Campaign for Better Transport

Telephone (0121) 440 7092
Mobile (07746) 748 349
E-Mail kevin_chapman@brum12.demon.co.uk
Webpage http://bettertransport.org.uk/west_midlands_local_group  

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