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End of the line for railway ticket offices as ministers plan huge cuts

East Midlands Trains
East Midlands Trains

Ministers are forging ahead with a swathe of railway ticket office closures, threatening to further inflame tensions with warring trade unions and risking a backlash from Conservative backbench MPs.

The Telegraph has learnt that Whitehall officials have “hardwired” ticket office closures into a new contract with East Midlands Railways, with sources saying the conditions will be replicated across the country.

Some 25 of East Midlands Railways’ 30 ticket offices will be cut across the line’s more than 100 stations, according to industry sources.

The 83pc reduction is understood to be broadly in line with the Government’s “Industry Change Programmes” that will be rolled out across all of Britain’s railways by new Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan after being developed under predecessor Grant Shapps.

The cuts suggest Britain could be left with only one in five of its railway ticket offices.

This risks sparking anger among backbench Conservatives, who fear less tech-savvy voters in their constituencies could be forced off the railways.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union (RMT) has already vowed to oppose the ticket office cuts, launching a campaign in June to “cut profits, not our ticket offices”.

The RMT and drivers union Aslef paused hostilities during the period of national mourning following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. But a fresh round of strikes is already on the cards with Aslef notifying train operators on Friday that they would walk out on October 1 and October 5.

Britain’s railways continue to be a significant drain on the public finances after taxpayers spent more than £16bn propping up services during the pandemic.

Ticket office use has fallen from 34pc of transactions in 2012/13 to 12pc in 2021/22, according to government figures.

Meanwhile, contactless payments accounted for 68pc of all national rail transactions.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “No final decision has been taken on ticket offices. Station staff are vital for passengers’ safety and passengers will always benefit from face-to-face assistance at train stations.

“The reality is ticket offices have seen a significant decline in use over the last decade, and by making station staff more adaptable we will have a better railway for passengers and taxpayers.”

East Midlands Railways declined to comment.