It was announced today that from March 2008 around 40 of the most lightly-used ticket offices at Tube stations will close and other stations will see a reduction in ticket office opening hours. It's all down to the "success" of Oystercards.
Richard Parry, London Underground's director of strategy and service development, said: "The success of Oyster has led to a huge reduction in the number of customers buying tickets at our stations. This has meant that we have already been able to shift station staff from behind the plate glass windows in ticket offices to the platforms and in ticket halls. By increasing the visibility of staff they will make the stations a safer place and will be able to fully assist customers."
Parry added: "We have also embarked on the biggest programme of investment, renewal and increase in capacity on the Tube since the Second World War. To cope with this extra capacity staff will also be re-deployed to drive these extra trains."
So it looks like some of the faces you saw behind the plate glass will be seen behind the controls of trains.
I'm only a fairly recent Oystercard user (well since September) and I still see TONS of people with paper tickets. Apparently Oystercards are used for 60% of all Tube trips.
Some of these "lightly used" ticket offices may I suppose make sense. See Transport Briefing's penultimate paragraph for the hit list. Maybe your regular station's office is there. Of the ones I use Ravenscourt Park & Chiswick Park are pretty much devoid of staff at the best of times, so losing the ticket office might not make difference there. But what about Regent's Park? I'd hardly say that was a lightly used station and is full of tourists. They're very unlikely to know about or even want to use an Oystercard. Who's going to help them when they're mooching around the station looking to buy a ticket?
Keith Norman from Aslef isn't convinced about the extra staff being easily on hand and said "This raises clear safety issues. The ticket office would be the first point of call for passengers needing help."
So what do you think? Will you miss seeing your friendly ticket office person? Won't they be expected to earn more if they're driving trains? What happens when something goes wrong with the ticket machines? What happens when the Oystercard reader doesn't work?