More customer assistance as Greater Anglia changes ticket purchase arrangements at seven Essex stations from 8 January 2018
Upgraded ticket machines with a 24-hour helpline and additional customer assistance are being introduced at seven Essex rail stations as Greater Anglia responds to more customers buying tickets online or at ticket machines.
Seven part-time ticket offices with very low levels of sales are set to close on Monday 8 January and will be replaced by ticket machines with a 24/7 link to a member of staff and in some cases a member of staff on the station to help customers with tickets, information and other queries.
The affected stations are Walton-on-the-Naze, Thorpe-le-Soken, Alresford, Great Bentley, Dovercourt, Harwich International and Great Chesterford
No jobs will be lost, as staff will be deployed either as mobile “welcome hosts” covering stations on the line or to other ticket offices.
For the first month, ticket office staff will remain at the stations to give support to any customers who may need it.
All of these stations have very low ticket sales that fall well below minimum sales thresholds set by the Department for Transport to consider an application to alter the statutory opening hours.
Across the Greater Anglia network, currently half of all tickets are bought online, on mobile phones or at ticket machines. In the past year, Greater Anglia app and total online sales, including season tickets, have seen big increases.
All ticket machines at the stations are fitted with a new button which puts the customer through to a member of staff who can help with ticket enquiries 24 hours a day – a feature which is already proving popular with customers across the Greater Anglia network.
There will be three welcome hosts at Thorpe-le-Soken in total, one at Walton-on-the-Naze and two at Harwich International. The hosts will also provide customer service at other stations along the route.
At Harwich International, a member of staff would be on duty at times of major demand, such as when there are cruise ships in port.
The affected stations are also due to get better customer information systems on platforms.
Additional CCTV and new lighting are also due to be fitted enhance safety and security at the stations.
The existing waiting rooms and toilets will remain open Walton-on-the-Naze, Thorpe-le-Soken, Great Bentley, Harwich International and the waiting room will remain open at Great Chesterford.
A consultation took place earlier in the year, and views of people who took part have been considered in deciding how the stations will operate without ticket offices.
All the ticket offices affected, except for Great Chesterford, are served by trains with on-board conductors who can also sell tickets to customers
Greater Anglia is making significant investment in new ticketing arrangements and station facilities, including investment in Smartcards for Season Tickets, expansion of web sales and digital ticketing for mobile devices and upgrading Customer Help Points at stations.
Greater Anglia will also continue to have procedures in place to provide assistance to Mobility Impaired customers.
Andrew Goodrum, Greater Anglia Customer Service Director, said: “We have consulted widely and done a lot of research before reaching this decision. We have also addressed the issues relating to assistance, station facilities and the process for implementing the changes that have been raised with us by key stakeholders such as Transport Focus and the MP Bernard Jenkin.
“Very few people are using the ticket office at these stations. We are confident that customers will receive a better level of service with the changes we are making.
“We are reacting to changes in the way people make purchases which can be seen across industries including retail and banking. The 24/7 assistance now available through the ticket machines is far more extensive than the much shorter periods the ticket offices have been open, whilst the new customer hosts will be more flexible and able to help out on the platforms.
“On other Greater Anglia branch lines, such as the Ipswich to Felixstowe and Norwich to Sheringham routes, services already operate successfully in this way.”
Notes to editors
The company has addressed all the concerns raised by Transport Focus and MP Bernard Jenkin including improving ticket vending machines, having a member of staff available to help passengers and providing extra support for a period after the ticket offices are closed.