Transport for London (TfL) says customer satisfaction has risen since it started to close London Underground ticket offices, reaching its highest level since the Olympics.
Around a quarter of stations are now operating without a ticket office. The process began in February with Queensway and South Wimbledon. By the end of the year only a handful of stations will have manned offices.
Says Xavier Brice, who is leading the overall change programme, ’We’ve now got King’s Cross St Pancras operating without a ticket office in the western ticket hall, Oxford Circus is now operating without a ticket office, so a quarter of the network is obviously substantial.
‘By the end of the year, we will have closed almost all of the ticket offices.’
As well as closing the former ticket office, the visitor centre at St Pancras has been re-branded and refreshed. TfL is opening seven more of these new magenta centres at Euston, Gatwick, Heathrow Terminals 1,2,3, Liverpool Street, Paddington, Piccadilly Circus, and Victoria.
Since announcing plans to close LU ticket offices, TfL has held more than 150 meetings with trade unions. London’s public transport operator committed to making no compulsory redundancies, but so far more than 800 people have opted for voluntary redundancy. TfL is actually in the process of recruiting an additional 345 staff ahead of the introduction of Night Tube services in September.
‘This is the biggest operational change to hit the Underground for a generation,’ says Xavier.
‘We don’t believe that bulletproof glass, people trapped in an office, is the way to serve customers. Instead it’s about people coming out of the ticket hall and doing what people do best which isn’t just pushing buttons on a machine but it’s giving human help and being proactive.’
He added, ‘Around a third of people are going to be working in different locations, the way we do rosters is changing. Grades that have been unaffected since company plans in the early 90s are changing.
‘That understandably creates anxiety because change takes time. Anxiety about where am I going to work, who am I going to be working for.
‘Now we’ve given guarantees to staff, we’ve guaranteed there will be no compulsory redundancies. Everyone’s got a job if they want one.’
Closing ticket offices will save TfL £50 million a year and in some stations the extra space presents an opportunity to boost commercial revenue. The programme has also included upgrading all existing ticket machines to improve usability and reliability, and adding 150 more to the network.