Harborough rail users
Improving the quality of Market Harborough's rail service
Earlier this year, the Mayor of London announced a proposal to withdraw from the Day Travelcard arrangement with train operators, including EMR. Harborough Rail Users submitted a response to the public ‘engagement’ on this, identifying that the Day Travelcard is a popular and useful ticket, both for day-trippers and for part-time commuters. We urged retention of the Day Travelcard, especially given that the whole question was in the context of the Government’s funding settlement for Transport for London (TfL).
On 21st July 2023, however, TfL announced that the Mayor had “…reluctantly instructed us to give the required minimum six months’ notice to withdraw from the relevant provisions of the Travelcard agreement”.
TfL’s statement goes on to say:
“While this six-month process is now underway, it is important that we are clear this remains reversible and does not therefore mean that Day Travelcards will be withdrawn. We and the Mayor remain open to discussing all options with both the Department for Transport, the Rail Delivery Group and the train operating companies, but in a way which would allow us to continue to meet the requirements of the government funding agreement. The existing daily pay as you go caps on contactless or Oyster, which are used by the overwhelming majority of those travelling, will not be affected by this.
We would like to reassure you that while these discussions take place Day Travelcards will remain available.”
Harborough Rail Users see this as very bad news. We hope the decision will be reversed. If the Day Travelcard actually is withdrawn, we will press for an equivalent day return ticket to London. We would want to ensure that the many people who use Day Travelcards can continue to enjoy a day in London, using Oyster or Contactless payment, at an equivalent cost and level of flexibility as they can now.
On Monday 10th July, a working party took place at the station, clearing weeds from the gravel area behind Platform 2 and generally tidying up. As well as the local station adopters from Market Harborough in Bloom, several colleagues from EMR and the Department for Transport came along to help. They were on a community support day, and put in a lot of effort to help.
Tuesday 11th July saw the judges from East Midlands in Bloom visit the town, as part of the regional competition. They had a good look around the station planting. We now await their verdict!
Getting down to it. Market Harborough in Bloom, EMR and DfT volunteers clearing weeds near the shrub planters behind Platform 2 on 10th July 2023.
Photos: Steve Jones
In full bloom: floral planting near
the car park steps.
The train operating companies, both individually such as EMR, and collectively through the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), launched a consultation on a proposal to close most station ticket offices throughout the country. They state that only 12% of ticket sales are now made at ticket offices; EMR say that only 5% of their tickets are sold this way. The majority of tickets are now sold online or via mobile phone apps, or at self-service ticket machines. The instigator of this proposal is the Government, which wants to reduce costs and ‘modernise customer service’. The stated aim is not to de-staff the stations; rather, it is to bring ticket office staff out from behind the glass and into more wide-ranging ‘customer help’ roles around the station. There is a parallel here with the changes recently seen in the banks and supermarkets. More on the RDG’s position can be found here: https://media.raildeliverygroup.com/news/proposals-to-update-the-railway-for-how-passengers-use-it-today
However, the proposals are proving controversial.
We in Harborough Rail Users accept modernisation on the railways just as much as anywhere else. For Market Harborough, the proposal is to close the ticket office and to reduce staffing hours at the beginning and end of the operating day. Staff will still be available to assist passengers, but we also wonder about the implications for them if the ticket office is closed. Will they be expected to be on their feet all day in the booking hall as well as their duties on the platforms? In any case, our station team are already multi-skilled, undertaking various customer-facing duties around the station.
We therefore have serious concerns about the implications of what is proposed, both for station users and the staff. Among these are:
Window of opportunity: the ticket office staff provides much advice and assistance to passengers as well as simple selling tickets, plus other services such as longer-term season tickets and the accompanying photocards; refunds, and cycle-hub fob keys; none of which are available through the ticket machines. Will the full range of services still be available at the station if the ticket office closes?
Photo: Steve Jones
Have your say. Please respond to the consultation,
DEADLINE EXTENDED TO FRIDAY 1ST SEPTEMBER:
You can also write to your MP.
Contact email addresses for our local MPs are:
The two self-service ticket machines in the booking hall at Market Harborough. These are quite versatile, selling a wide range of tickets. The one on the right accepts cash as well as card payments. There are two more, card-only, machines in the car park kiosk. They all sell most tickets, but not everything that is available through the ticket office. They can also be temperamental; for example, they have been known not to accept railcards, or issue pre-purchased tickets.
Photo: Steve Jones
We are not opposed to modernisation, but it must be done in a way that does not disadvantage anyone. The railway is a public service that must be accessible and available to all.