Back in April What’s in Wapping broke the news that the ticket desk at Wapping station would only open 7-10 am on weekdays and not at all on weekends.
I am convinced (but have no independent proof!) that using the machines at overground and DLR stations for oyster purchases is notably slower than the machines in underground stations (particularly observable in the responsive of the machine to the user holding the oystercard). Wapping station has one ticket machine and thus any buildup of people wishing to buy tickets can lead to a queue developing.
Having got fed up of queueing to top-up my PAYG credit, I wondered what the effect of closing the ticket office might have on revenue. So what did I do? I got on the internet and fired off an FOI request.
Total revenue at Wapping Station 2004-2012
To get a sense of the historic growth of revenue at the station, I’ve plotted the monthly total revenue figures for Wapping from April 2004 (period 1 financial year 2005) to August 2012 (period 5 financial year 2013). One interesting fact I discovered (ok, that might be overdoing things) is that TfL manages its business over 13 periods, rather than 12 months, so that most periods are 4 weeks/28 days later.
The big gap is the closure of the station when the line was being extended.
Total revenue at Wapping Station 2010-2012
Focussing on the period after the station reopened, revenue each period has shown a steady increase. The change in the ticket office opening hours occured in April 2012 (P1, 2013), and you can see that revenue fell motn on month by about £15k, before starting to recover. I think that the opening hours were re-extended in July (period 4) ahead of the Olympics. Of note is that there was no noticeable leap in revenue in 2013, period 5, during the Olympics.
Revenue from ticket office and ticket machine 2010-2012
I was able to obtain revenue broken down by source from 2010 onwards (it wasn’t recorded by source previously). You can see that the impact of the change in opening hours on the pattern of ticket revenue. You can see that the vending machine picked up a lot of the reduction in sales via the ticket office, but that this wasn’t sufficient to prevent revenue falling and you can see on the bottom chart that the ticket office’s proportion of station revenue fell from c.40 per cent to 20 per cent with a halving of revenue for three months.
Total revenue adjusted for inflation and seasonal fluctuation
Looking at the top graph, it is apparent that there is a significant level of month-on-month variation in revenue at the station, because of this, it makes it difficult to say categorically that the change of the ticket office’s opening hours was the driver of the decline, rather than a general annual downward trend in April. To compensate for all of these factors, I have deflated the raw data using an ONS CPI index for transport expenditure (I didn’t use the railway price index, as I thought that would be too specific) and then calculated a seasonal factor (essentially the average difference from the mean for a given period using revenue data since 2004). You can see that as a result, my revise figures (the blue line in the graph below) shows much less variation, and there is a clear trend line.
Even with my adjustments, you still get some large month-on-month changes, so the impact of the hours can’t be full certain (and I’m definitely not bothering to undertake a large scale multi-variate regression), but I think there is clear evidence that:
- The proportion of tickets purchased from the ticket office halved
- Overall ticket revenues fell by 10/15% (nominal/adjusted) from the previous month
TfL’s trial will presumably have told them that they can close the ticket office and total revenue will fall slightly. However, the more fundamental issue is the impact on users of the station. If there is only one ticket machine, that means that logically the length of time to queue must increase. Users must decide to either queue or perform a transaction elsewhere. As long as a person has sufficient credit, that will presumably be at a destination station. However, I assume Wapping is a relatively quiet station, so ultimately the demand on ticket machines would be offloaded to other stations, which may be even busier. The more fundamental issue perhaps is the fact that the ticket office is able to issue national rail tickets, which the ticket machine cannot do at present and thus, for these transactions users are particularly inconvenienced as this means being unable to buy necessary zone extensions for journeys outside of TfL’s zone system.