I have formerly objected to the closure of Ryde and Shanklin ticket offices by writing to the leader of IW Council, SW Trains and the IWC Cabinet Member for Transport today 17th July 2023. See my letter/email and the response I have received below that indicates the offices are likely to remain open on the Isle of Wight but managed in a different way and staff will be retained although this has to be confirmed. Please do make your feelings known by clicking on the consultation site below.
Members Question for Full Council – Closure of Train Ticket Office at Ryde Esplanade and at Shanklin
I wish to ask the following question during Member’s questions at the Full Council meeting on 19th July 2023.
My question is as follows:
In light of the announcement by SW Trains that the ticket offices are to be closed at Ryde Esplanade and Shanklin, what action does IW Council and Cabinet intend to take?
If SW Train cannot be persuaded to stop the closure of these two ticket offices, would IW Council call a meeting of all stakeholders such as other travel operators, town councils (Ryde and Shanklin), user groups, Visit IW, to discuss how these offices could remain open as tourist/travel and holiday offices including accessibility advice/support?
I am particularly concerned that a brand new ticket office has been build as part of the £10 Million investment at the Ryde Interchange. It seems absolutely absurd that at the same time the new interchange is opened the ticket office closes alongside the £26 Million investment in the new train stock. Ryde and Shanklin are seaside visitor destinations and the ticket offices are busy and important for tourism. Many residents, including myself, do not find the automatic ticket machines and internet services easy to get the right ticket at a price we can afford especially if you have rail passes. By going to the ticket office in Ryde and Shanklin visitors and residents have greater choice and help to get the best route and price. Also, many visitors and residents have accessibility needs and need extra help and currently these ticket offices provide this and the closure will in my view be discriminatory against those with special needs. I raise that in the past SW Trains was working with Isle Access about have an accessibility centre at Ryde Esplanade train station and Ryde Town Council had agreed to a grant for this but sadly this never happened. Perhaps this idea could be also resurrected. It is totally unacceptable to have an empty ticket office in the Ryde new Interchange as it will go totally against the revitalisation of Ryde seafront.
Michael – Cllr Michael Lilley
IW Councillor for Ryde Appley and Elmfield
Response from Cllr Phil Jordan – Cabinet Member for Transport
Thanks for the email and the detailed comments. I share your concerns about the potential closure of the ticket office(s) in Ryde and Shanklin.
Firstly, I have responded to the consultation process expressing my concerns as Cabinet member for Transport. I do urge others to respond equally to the ‘online’ consultation which closes on 26th July:
Respond here: Ticket office closures – Transport Focus
SWT have confirmed that Ryde Esplanade is a ‘Category 1’ station which means amongst other things that it is unlikely to physically close as a space. This consultation is a national approach driven by Government so there is no guarantee either way at this stage of closure or remaining open but some clarification today from senior managers of SWT suggest that physical closure is not the outcome but rather (if implemented) a different operating model where behind counter staff provide the ‘same’ service from ‘in front of the counter’. I am informed that staff will be available for assistance from 6am until 7pm each day. (I’m sure that will be looked at in terms of days of opening, however)
Now, this was challenged in terms of narrative this morning in the Transport Infrastructure Board but what seems to be the case is the ticketing delivery service would be changing rather than ceasing. SWT confirm that it is very unlikely there will be any staff reductions and the visible change would be that staff will not remain behind the counter, rather be in front of the counter! (and, we assume, on the station itself). SWT confirmed from their record that only 3% of all ticket sales are conducted through ticket offices and 97% from ‘other’ methods such as online purchasing or ticket machine services. I think we will have to accept that as a true representation of current operations.
We have expressed our disappointment but do understand and accept that this is Government driven, across the country, and not a stand-alone approach by SWT for their area of operation or for the Island alone.
In that regard, the Council through my role, are writing to SWT and the Minister expressing our overall concerns about this whole approach.
So, at this stage, representations are being made, the consultation process will need to conclude and comments collated and then we will need to await any announcement of future action in this regard before looking at potential steps open to us. As I said, if the ticket office is not going to be closed (whatever system they implement for ticket sales/information delivery) then there is little to be considered for re-purposing the area. To be frank, from senior management comments today, that seems the most likely outcome for SWT, retaining the ticket office space for train service usage but placing existing ‘behind the counter’ staff in the public space instead. One assumes with either hand-held or ticket machine support and capability which staff will support the ticket buying public through.
I hope this is helpful, updated information in the context that no exact details exist currently, only proposals, and time will deliver developing information on the issue.
Cllr Phil Jordan
Cabinet Member for Transport & Infrastructure