Whitechapel Ticket Office Closure

A bit of digging into the closure of Whitechapel ticket office

Ticket barriers at Whitechapel
Ticket gates at Whitechapel – ticket office to left

A week or so ago, I happened to see a reference to the closure of the ticket office at Whitechapel. Interested I tried to find some information. I couldn’t find anything on TfL’s website, Crossrail’s website had the same artist/architect designs as on the District Line platform at Whitechapel, which clearly show a ticket office, which you can see in the picture on this page.
Then I wondered if this was going to be like Wapping, where there is a physical ticket office, but just isn’t open. I then found a petition, which didn’t really say much more. What it did tell me is that economy of speech may make for a stronger point in expressing a view. The petition is organised by the RMT union.
Bob Crow, the RMT general secretary is quoted as saying:
“RMT is in no doubt that if the Whitechapel ticket office is axed it will open the floodgates to a surge of closures in the drive to de-staffing which will turn the Undergound into a criminals paradise and leave passengers who need support and advice stranded.”
Whilst Bob Crow’s emulation of Coolio’s theme to Dangerous Minds has me a little worried, such a public display of mixed metaphors has me in cold sweats. To make things worse the press release goes on to use the phrase ‘en masse’ (which I have been known to employ) published sans ‘e’ (see what I did there) that makes me feel that the proletariat is getting all nouveau riche (and again) on me.
Having regained my composure from reading pretentious press releases, I was keen to find out where TfL have ‘announced’ this closure. I contacted the author of the petition on twitter and I was told that the ‘plans do not show a ticket office’. I asked twice for a link or source, but to no avail. I again tried searching TfLs website, I searched Crossrail’s website, I used google on both sites to filter any reference to Whitechapel in the last six months, all to no joy.

So I thought I’d contact the Crossrail press team (and as a backup plan submitted an FOI request), not expecting to get a reply. However, a day or so later, I got a reply from TfL: Crossrail had passed it on as it was a question on operations, and the station will be operated by TfL.

Thus came the reply:

“As you know, works at the station have already begun, and the current ticket office will be demolished in July next year. At that point we’ll open a temporary ticket hall while works are going on, and that will not have a ticket office. Last year we shared with trade union representatives our plans for the ticket hall which allow us to put another lift into the ticket hall area by not replacing the current ticket hall.”

(I assume the last word should read ‘office’ and not ‘hall’.)

TfL also likes a sound bite and for the sake of balance:

Gareth Powell, Director of Strategy and Service Development for London Underground, said:

“London Underground continues to carry more passengers, more reliably and safely than ever before. As we have always made clear, we remain committed to staffing all stations across the Tube network, with visible assistance for customers where they need it most.

“Where we are redeveloping a station we seek to make the best possible use of space, and in some cases this could mean redeveloping a station with increased ticketing technology rather than a replacement ticket office. Our plans for Whitechapel, which will increase station capacity with the arrival of Crossrail and enable us to improve accessibility by providing another lift in the ticket hall area, were shared with trade unions last year. We will continue to discuss changes to ticketing technology on the railway and the huge modernisation of the Tube with our staff.”

I’ve asked if it’s possible to get any extracts of the revised station plans to see how it’ll look. I’ve got copies of the originals, so would be interesting to see how the changes affect matters.

As a follow-up question I asked:

Given that there will be 3 lines (2x sub surface, overground and crossrail) – is TfL able at this stage to provide assurance that there will be staff to assist with ticketing?

And pretty quick I got a reply.

“In terms of the assurance that staff will be on hand to assist with ticketing: yes, 100 per cent. Our whole position is based on the fact that customers have voted with their feet over the last six or seven years and now increasingly choose to buy their tickets online or from machines as the most convenient and quickest option, and the aim is to improve that process. To do that we need to make buying tickets simpler for people who want or need to buy travel or resolve issues at stations, and we have to equip our staff better to deal with problems. Underpinning that for us are two core propositions – that we’ll always have staff at stations across the network, and that we’ll use the staff we have in the way that makes them the most use to the most amount of people. That means they should be out and about in the ticket hall and platform areas where they can help people, not stuck behind a window.”

Now the question is – is having the staff in an office better than having them assisting at ticket machines? I’ve asked about the functionality of the ticket machines for things like purchasing national rail tickets and I’m awaiting a reply. I can’t help but worry that staff will get dragged away from the ticket machines to just man the barrier, but at the same time, if the station will be more accessible, that must be a better thing, but how do you weight the relative benefits?

I haven’t decided what my opinion is yet, and I’ve got some queries outstanding, but at least TfL are open about it all.

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