The joys of the railway ticket office

“MAKE sure you mention me in your article,” says the ticket lady at Enfield Chase, a modest station on the suburban line from London’s Moorgate to Stevenage. “I’m Grace. ‘Amazing Grace’, they call me.

And she is indeed part of an amazing army of super-knowledgable people who issue tickets on our railways. Want the cheapest ticket and the time of the train from Wick to Whitby on a Bank Holiday morning? Well folk like Grace will be able to help you.

The bad news is that the government is planning to close down almost all ticket offices ending the jobs of Grace and her like, replacing them with machines. A public consultation on the issue ended this weekend.

The government claims that only 12 per cent of tickets are sold in ticket offices. But campaigners say this masks regional variations and disadvantages the disabled and the elderly. They also say the machines do not offer the myriad of fares available in our complicated ticketing system

More than half a million people have responded to the plans to shut almost 870 ticket offices, including such major stations as Euston and Birmingham New St.  Ministers have been stunned by the response to the consolation – the biggest public consultation on any topic ever.

This weekend there is talk of a “reverse ferret”, with Tory backbenchers nervy about the upcoming general election and a disastrous backlash from ticket offices closing in their constituencies.

Don’t be surprised to see this ill-thought out proposal shunted into a siding. And if you want to make sure it happens, buy your ticket from Grace, not that clunky ticket machine next door.