We believe there are five key requirements:

  1. The ability to buy tickets from a staff member using cash and card. The preference for many, for a good portion (see point 5 below) of their ticket buying is to do so online or using contactless. But this misses a key issue, which is making the railway available to all.
    • For a variety of reasons, some intending travellers really struggle with the alternatives – or even find them (near) impossible. Reasons include disability, neurodiversity, being non-digital and not holding debit/credit cards with available funds. In a good portion of these cases there is no simple solution, and buying from staff will, realistically, remain the best option long term.
    • Intending passengers are not confident that other channels will give them the best price and/or the best choice of travel times and/or a proper understanding of the restrictions set for their ticket – thus, the advice of an experienced ticket clerk is essential, both for the occasional user and for regulars making unusual journeys.
    • Some products are only available at ticket offices.
  2. The provision of help for those who need it to move around the station and to board their train. As well as enough staff, stations need to be low-mobility friendly, so the access for all programme is essential. As well as improvements such as lifts, there are other opportunities such as reducing the platform train gap. A key point that became much more visible during the ticket office consultation is the need to ensure an effective welcome / meeting point, particularly for those who struggle to move around a station.
  3. Providing help and guidance on the train to catch (and more), particularly during disruption. A good portion of this can be automated, particularly for smartphone users, but presence of suitably trained and empowered staff is a significant quality enabler.
  4. Ensuring that the station is a pleasant place to be - areas to wait that are warm and dry, toilets are available, it is safe everywhere and has other facilities suitable for its size and nature such as catering and shops.
  5. Opportunities are taken to make the station part of the wider community as opportunities allow (eg general use cafes, banking hubs and more); this very much needs to be driven by locals with their degree of understanding of needs and station facilities.
    • Where passenger numbers are low, there are other options, such as ticket purchase on train, travelling assistance staff, or assistance from the guard / conductor, but these options don’t handle larger numbers and particularly for assistance, can mean an extended wait for those needing help.
    • A key issue with the Ticket Office Consultation over summer 2023 was the failure to recognise the topics inherent in 1 above – in particular for the first bullet that there are travellers who will always struggle with the alternatives. The second bullet can be tackled; by far the most important element is fares reform, as this can be expected to increase buying confidence. An advantage, however, is the rich databank from the 750,000 responses.

An increasing portion of ticket sales will be made online, and contactless / PAYG will no doubt be rolled out to more routes, but a well-staffed station remains a key element in attracting leisure passengers, the prime growth opportunity to the railway and encouraging modal shift.

Ticket Offices