The bell tolls for the wise kings of the railways

BOOKING clerks are the wise kings of the flawed realm of the railway fare system. Want a super off-peak ticket from Nuneaton to Peterborough?  Or Wigan to Rose Grove? Then the man or woman behind the glass booth is your person. They will help you navigate the byzantine ticketing system in which there are hundreds of choices of the right ticket to get.

Today’s government announcement that most station ticket offices are to close sounds the death knell for some of the most important employees of the railway who have been our guides since Stephenson dispatched his Rocket from Liverpool to Manchester.

Now we are to be faced by impenetrable ticket machines, which, if they are working at all, will almost certainly not be a able to divine the cheapest fare from A to B, let alone tell us the time of the last train home.

In the double-speak of today’s railway management,, the ticket clerks will be diverted to roam the platforms, “helping passengers”. But who wants to bet they won’t be cut in a year’s time. In two years, I’ll wager be they will all be gone.

Remember all these bus routes that were promised after the Beeching cuts? It’s virtually certain that the distinguished folk who staff our booking offices will vanish into the same black hole.