Lanarkshire MSP calls for a halt to proposals to close rail ticket offices

An MSP has called on the Scottish Government to suspend planned reductions in ticket office opening times at Lanarkshire stations.

Richard Leonard has criticized ScotRail’s plans, saying they would cut more than a third of the existing hours that offices are staffed in Scotland from more than 9,400 a week to just 6,200.

The Central Scotland MSP has launched the move, which comes less than three months before the transfer of national rail services from current operator Abellio to a new independent company owned and controlled by the Scottish Government.

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Mr Leonard, the former Scottish Labor leader, said: ‘Public services are often stripped before privatisation, but these cuts come before ScotRail is taken back into public hands.

“We know the Tories have a habit of scrapping services to make them more attractive to the private sector – this is a perverse mirror image, with the SNP apparently happy to allow them to be dismantled before they return in the hands of the public.

“The government must step in and immediately halt these damaging plans.”

He joins party colleague Mark Griffin in opposing the plans, with his fellow Central Scotland member saying they will ‘not only make it less convenient to use the train but also pose a potential safety issue “.

Currently out for public consultation, the proposals would see stations such as Blairhill in Coatbridge, Shotts, Cumbernauld and Burnside open only for the morning rush hour; while others, including Coatbridge Sunnyside, Wishaw, Cambuslang, Lanark and Bellshill, would close in the early afternoon, and the longest offices, Airdrie and Motherwell, would close mid-evening instead of midnight.

Mr Leonard has also expressed fears that the reduction of more than 3,000 ticketing hours a week is equivalent to the equivalent of 92.6 full-time positions – but ScotRail insists there will be no redundancies , saying staff will be redeployed to mobile roles such as on trains and assisting at busier stations.

The company says the move will “better meet the needs” of passengers, as in-person ticket purchases have halved over the past decade following the introduction of vending machines and mobile apps.

ScotRail says there will be no redundancies or reductions in service as a result of the move – intended to ‘better meet the needs’ of passengers – and that staff will be redeployed into mobile roles, including assisting at busiest stations during peak periods, checking tickets at gates on trains and leading broader community initiatives.

Launching the 12-week consultation online, the company noted, “We are not conducting this exercise to reduce headcount and reduce costs.”

He added: “Staff are not interacting with customers as often as we would like and many stations are no longer busy enough to have staff at a ticket office.”

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