First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to scrap proposed cuts to ScotRail ticket offices.
It comes after it was announced last month that the rail operator will reduce the operating hours of 120 out of 140 ticket offices, as well as closing three others.
The company has suggested the decision was made due to a lack of business in ticket offices over the last ten years, with more passengers purchasing tickets from vending machines and online.
However, the move has been met with criticism by trade union bosses and other organisations who insist that offices must remain open.
They argue that the offices provide a “safe, secure and accessible railway for all, including the most vulnerable people within society”.
ScotRail has previously indicated that keeping a ticket office open that sells only ten tickets a day is “not the best use of people”.
They added that the changes will enable “more focus on revenue protection duties.”
A joint letter has now been sent to the First Minister raising concerns about the impact of the move.
It is signed by RMT, Aslef, TSSA, Unite the Union, STUC, Disabled People Against Cuts, Friends of the Earth Scotland, Inclusion Scotland, Scottish Pensioners Forum, The Scottish Women’s Convention, We Own It, Bring Back British Rail and Get Glasgow Moving.
“We believe these proposed cuts will worsen passenger service, accessibility, safety and security, and will hinder Scotland’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic,” the letter states.
“The proposals would also lead to a worsening of the quality of services available to passengers at the times when it is proposed the ticket offices will be closed.
“There are various services provided at the ticket office which are not available at Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs).
“Unlike ticket offices, TVMs also do not ensure that passengers get the cheapest ticket for their journey.”
It adds: “With just weeks to go until the Scottish Government is running the ScotRail franchise directly in public ownership, we call on you to scrap the proposed cuts to ScotRail ticket offices and instead commit to investing in an affordable, accessible, reliable and properly staffed rail network for Scotland.”
It comes after a people were asked for their views on the future of ticket offices, with a three-week consultation on the issue due to close on Wednesday.
Phil Campbell, head of customer operations at ScotRail, outlined the need for the company to keep pace with the changing purchasing habits of customers.
“There has been no real review of our ticket office opening hours for 30 years, and it is important we keep up with the changing habits of customers who no longer rely on purchasing tickets in that way,” he said.
“With more than a 50% drop in the use of ticket offices, heightened by the pandemic, we want to do everything we can to make sure everyone has a hassle-free journey.
“Nobody in ScotRail will lose their jobs as a result of these changes, and it is important to note that rather being about cutting jobs, this is about adding value for our staff and customers.
“Throughout this consultation we’ve been talking to customers, staff, and stakeholders about the improvements they can expect to see and experience as they travel around Scotland’s Railway.”
A Transport Scotland spokesperson explained there is a “strong rationale” behind the proposals set out by ScotRail.
“ScotRail’s three-week public consultation has provided passengers with the opportunity to have their say on the proposals regarding ticket office opening hours,” he said.
“The aim of this review, the first of its kind in over 30 years, is to make changes that will ensure the modernisation of Scotland’s stations and offer passengers a more efficient and cost effective service for the future.
“We have encouraged passengers to get involved and we look forward to hearing Transport Focus’ findings in the coming weeks.
“There is a strong rationale behind the proposals from ScotRail, including the additional revenue they could generate and the potential benefits for staff, all of which is set out in detail.
“Given ScotRail have already provided assurances there will be no job losses, rather than make misleading claims, ministers will await the consultation findings before making any final decision on this matter.”