The city’s MPs have defended the decision to reduce ticket offices at two train stations.
The Government has announced that it had given London Midland permission to reduce ticket office opening hours at Wolverton and Bletchley Stations.
Lib Dem Transport Minister, Norman Baker MP, made the announcement in a Written Statement to Parliament which includes allowing London Midland to shut four ticket offices completely and reduce opening hours at Wolverton and Bletchley.
Labour has been campaigning to keep the ticket offices open and has expressed concern that any reduction could be the thin end of the wedge, leading to toilets and other facilities being closed as well. Over the summer, the new station building at Wolverton was shut due to staff shortages and passengers were forced to rely on the ticket machines.
London Midland now has permission to cut the ticket office opening hours at Wolverton from 6am to 1pm each weekday to 6.15am to 11am instead.
Bletchley station will see the ticket office shut at 9pm on Monday and 8pm Tuesday to Friday, less than the original proposals from London Midland
MP for Milton Keynes South, Iain Stewart, said: “These changes reflect the way in which many more passengers are buying tickets. More are choosing to buy their tickets online or at ticket vending machines, although ticket offices will still be open at the main times people travel. As a condition for these changes, the Minister has placed some additional measures on London Midland to improve its services.”
“One of these is the provision of 29 additional ticket vending machines at stations that do not currently have this facility. This will be an improvement in availability at stations where the ticket office is currently only open part-time, with passengers now able to purchase tickets whenever they wish to travel.”
“I will, however, be seeking assurances from London Midland, that essential station services such as toilet facilities and assistance to disabled passengers will still be available.”
MP for Milton Keynes North, mark Lancaster, said: “In their usual haste to criticise, Labour are clearly blissfully unaware of the current discussions between London Midland and community groups in Wolverton to provide both a cafe and improved opening hours for the station, a potential win, win for commuters, local residents and London Midland alike.
“After many years of careful work to get to this point, I’m concerned that Mr Pake’s desire to get a cheap headline could seriously undermine the long term efforts of many local people to deliver an excellent community facility.”
Andrew Pakes, Labour & Co-operative Parliamentary Spokesperson for Milton Keynes said: “This is deeply disappointing news as many passengers rely on ticket staff to provide travel information and to increase the sense of security on stations.
“We have a brand new station building a Wolverton but now thanks to the government the ticket office will be shut for longer risking the shutters coming down on the entire building. Although the cut to ticket office times is not as bad as feared in Bletchley, this is still not good news for the town.
“Thousands of people rely on our local stations to get to work and visit friends and families. Yet despite rail fares rocketing we now face the prospect of ‘closed’ signs at stations. I am saddened that a Lib Dem Minister has given the green light to this decision and I hope the Government will think again.”