ScotRail urged to rethink plans to cut ticket office hours at five Fife stations

ScotRail has been urged to rethink plans to reduce ticket office opening hours at five Fife stations.
ScotRail has been urged to rethinkScotRail has been urged to rethink
ScotRail has been urged to rethink

Changes have been proposed which could impact 120 stations across the network in Scotland, with Aberdour, Cupar, Cowdenbeath, Dunfermline Town and Leuchars all on that list.

Unions have voiced their disapproval of the plans, although ScotRail insist people’s habits have evolved and say a reduction in opening hours would align more closely with customer usage.

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No staff will lose their jobs and will instead be redeployed to provide enhanced customer service on the frontline.

Despite those assurances, however, a number of Fife councillors have written to ScotRail urging a U-turn on the move.

St Andrews councillor Jane Ann Liston is particularly concerned about the impact on Leuchars, Fife’s third busiest station, where the ticket office could close at 6pm or 6.30pm instead of 9.45pm Monday to Saturday and 2.30pm instead of 10.15pm on Sundays.

“The station is isolated, some distance from any shops or other facilities,” she said.

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“When it was built as Leuchars Junction back in 1878, it was envisaged solely as an interchange for the Tayport and St Andrews branches (Leuchars village had its own station) rather than a starting point or final destination.

“The isolation therefore did not matter then but now it does.

“When the ticket office closes, so does access to the waiting room and the toilets, as the separate Caledonian Sleeper facilities are only open to sleeper passengers.

“It does seem somewhat profligate of the rail industry to have built a lounge with free refreshments and toilets plus an attendant for at most one or two passengers at a time if that and for a very short period – most sleeper passengers arrive by car or taxi just a few minutes before the train so may not even use the lounge – and on the other hand shut up the facilities used by all other passengers.

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“It is not acceptable that the railway station serving such an important destination as St Andrews should have no shelter or toilets open in the evenings as, excellent though Scotrail’s performance might be, there will be times when trains are late.

“I believe the nearest toilet is at the pub in Leuchars village, half a mile away, rather too far to walk under the circumstances.”

Ms Liston added that ticket machines and staff are not “interchangeable”, with the former unable to take cash, provide advice on complex journeys or sell tickets for a future date.

“The upshot of all this is that cutting ticket-office hours is likely to make travel by rail less attractive at a time when for environmental reasons we need to double rail journeys from what they were pre-COVID rather than reduce them,” she concluded.

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ScotRail has been consulting on the plans throughout January and, although no firm decision has been taken as yet, the company says ticket offices will still be in operation at 140 stations after the changes.

“ScotRail believes the current arrangements are inefficient, don’t put the customer first and are in need of modernisation to better support customers,” it said.

“Our review has also established that aligning ticket office hours with customer usage will also generate a saving of more than 75 tonnes of CO2 each year from unnecessarily heating and lighting.

“ScotRail proposes to repurpose staff from less busy locations to enable the establishment of mobile on-train and station teams that better supports customers.

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“This proposal will improve staff visibility, helpfulness, and increase passenger assistance beyond our larger stations.

“This deployment of staff would be much more flexible, customer centric, and better match customer purchasing and traveling habits in 2022 rather than 1991.”