South Western Railway ticket offices 'shut for weeks on end'

Micheldever station
Image caption Micheldever station's ticket office was closed entirely for five out of eight weeks

More than 20 ticket offices at stations run by South Western Railway (SWR) have been closed, some for weeks on end, the BBC has learnt.

The list, provided by a staff member, details ticket office closures between October and Christmas.

The worst was Micheldever in Hampshire, which was closed entirely for five out of eight weeks.

SWR says it is working to "minimise disruption" by recruiting more staff, but training takes four months.

The list showed ticket offices in the south and west groups of stations which have been closed for entire weeks, including St Denys, Swaythling, Hedge End and Parkstone in Dorset.

Ticket offices which closed for full days include Hook, Winchester, Sway, Hamworthy, Wool, Christchurch, Pokesdown and Branksome.

Other stations have frequently closed early, from mid-morning. They include some larger stations, such as Farnborough, Eastleigh and Southampton Airport Parkway.

In a memo to members, the RMT union said: "There seems to be a complete reluctance by the company to fill vacancies and a disregard by the company in fulfilling its franchise commitment."

'Terrible idea'

SWR has not disputed there is a shortage of staff.

Without ticket office workers, in some cases it means passengers being unable to buy tickets before boarding trains.

At smaller stations it means no SWR employees are available to assist passengers, including those with restricted mobility.

A spokesperson said: "We know that recent changes in our station management teams have left the new south region temporarily short of relief staff.

"We are now in the process of recruiting new posts to address this. Additionally, we have experienced higher than usual staff turnover."

Christopher Irwin of passenger group TravelWatch South West said it was a "terrible idea" not to have staffed ticket offices.

"Passengers need to see staff on their stations to feel safe, to give them advice, to give them help to get on to trains if they are disabled - not having staffed stations undermines all that."

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