IFPC have responded to Greater Anglia’s public consultation process about proposed changes to the way tickets are sold and customer service is provided at stations (please see the text below).
Tuesday, 25 July is the last day to submit your response – you can do it here.
Ingatestone is a small village with footfall more like a small town. The current ticket office staff at Ingatestone Station go above and beyond compared to staff at other stations, by offering the surrounding community and visitors, support for their onward travel and information on the local area. They additionally act as key liaison contacts for the Anglo European School. They know a large majority of frequent travellers by name and offer exemplary customer service. Reducing the manned hours so drastically will have a considerable impact on passengers ease of access to the train network and reduce customer service levels and customer satisfaction. The proposed stated staff hours poses various concerns to the Parish.
Approximately 700 children and staff from Anglo European School travel through Ingatestone Station every day, twice a day. The new proposed hours still cover the morning peak, however the close at 12:50 means that the station is completely unsupported for their return travels from 15:00 to 17:30 to accommodate for various clubs and after school support. This would mean that all of those students have no duty of care at home-time. These particular concerns are then compounded in the winter months when there is limited light.
Additionally, during peak and disrupted travel times, station staff provide an additional level of safety support to ensure that there is no overcrowding on the platforms. Ingatestone station is not a modern station and has limited covered areas from wet weather, and on parts of the Norwich bound platform can be quite narrow, particularly for passengers with luggage, buggies or mobility equipment.
Over the last few years, Ingatestone Station has been a reoccurring location for track related accidents with multiple fatalities. Whilst the station staff are not directly able to stop these kinds of incidents, they are extremely important when dealing with the aftermath during these emergencies, providing support for travellers who have their travel disrupted as a result. The majority of these incidents have all occurred after 12.50.
Currently, when station staff leave, toilets and waiting rooms are locked, but with the current adequate staff coverage it means that these facilities are available throughout the day. With the new proposed station staffing hours being significantly reduced, it is inferred that the access to these facilities will also be reduced. This will impact hundreds of travellers, some of whom may need access to toilets and seating for health reasons. With the limited undercover waiting areas it is particularly unfair to not offer travellers a dry and warm place to wait, particularly during times of travel disruption.
If the proposal means that facilities will be left unlocked, this poses additional concerns for improper use and vandalism. The station currently has clean, well kept facilities, and by leaving them unattended the concern is this standard will quickly fall.
Ingatestone and the surrounding areas have a higher proportion of people over the age of 65 compared to the rest of England. The proposed station staffing hours would mean that travellers who are far more likely to be travelling super off-peak will be forced to purchase tickets from the ONE machine at the station, or online. A lot of residents in Ingatestone do not have access to computers or internet and from having direct feedback from our parishioners, we understand that they are more likely to find it difficult to use automated ticket machines or could suffer from age related hearing or sight loss, making the machine a sub sufficient method of purchasing tickets.
A concern that has been raised frequently, is the support for disabled or less mobile passengers and questions have been raised regarding who would be on site to support them on getting on and off the train during unmanned hours. It is already difficult for passengers with accessibility issues to travel using public transport, by reducing the amount of hours where a person is physically on hand to support will further discourage this part of the population to travel independently, without extreme planning, which sometimes is not an option.
Ingatestone is also home to a secure bike lock up that is of frequent use by commuters. If there is any issues with the security feature the station staff are on hand to support getting into the lock up. The proposed hour change would mean that all commuters arriving after 18:00 would not be able to access their bicycles if there was an issue.
The proposed station staffing hours has a direct impact on the level of customer service Greater Anglia is able to provide.
Ingatestone station has one ticket machine, and one ticket office window. By reducing the manned ticket window hours, it essentially halves the outlets for purchasing tickets. During peak travel hours, like the post school rush as an example, this will result in significant queuing and people missing their trains and risks passengers with no smart phones to travel without tickets.
A significant amount of returning commuters make use of the evening to ask questions, or pre-purchase tickets from the ticket office for the next day. Having no staff on-site from 12:50 onwards will have a direct impact on these business travellers and have knock on effect to queues and business in the mornings.
Ingatestone Station staff are extremely helpful, and are a wealth of knowledge, acting as spokespeople for Greater Anglia, passing on relevant news to passengers and the local community and local schools. The proposed station staffing hours directly reduces the opportunity for passengers and local residents to understand anything upcoming that may impact travel, like rail replacement weekends or rail strikes. It also reduces the chance for knowledgeable staff to support during rail replacement weekends.
Ingatestone station is a very small station compared to its neighbouring stations Shenfield and Chelmsford. Despite its size it manages to sustain significant footfall of passengers including school children, commuters travelling back and forth to London as well as passengers travelling for leisure to Chelmsford and London. The proposed staffing hours means that the station is unsupported for half the day, impacting all passengers and the wider community of Ingatestone. These proposed changes are insufficient to allow appropriate support to all passengers and their needs throughout the entire day.