Train company quashes ticket office closure fears

TRAIN operator First Capital Connect (FCC) has quashed fears that ticket offices at its stations will be permanently closed.

Last week The Comet reported that Knebworth, Baldock, Arlesey, and Ashwell and Morden are four of 675 stations across the country earmarked for the permanent closure of their ticket offices in a Government report prepared by Sir Roy McNulty.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said the findings of Sir Roy’s report will be examined as part of a Government review, with a detailed response expected next month.

But FCC has now written to staff at its affected stations, explaining that the train company intends to ignore Government advice if it concludes closure of ticket offices.

An FCC spokesman said: “We have absolutely no plans to close any ticket offices at First Capital Connect stations.

“It’s a report that’s looking generally across the whole country.

“We have reassured our staff because the way the report has been written has the potential to be quite alarming to our staff.”

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The news will come as a relief to those who use the stations.

Pensioner Patricia Hooper explained how she moved from Northampton to Stotfold two-and-a-half years ago partly because of Arlesey Railway Station.

“Now they are building more and more houses and there’s no infrastructure,” she said.

“I thought the Government wanted people off the road. It’s absolute madness.”

Mrs Hooper said she would struggle to use a machine to buy a train ticket. “I would have no means of getting out of Stotfold,” she said. “At 77 I don’t want to be stuck at home looking at four walls.”

Arlesey pensioner Joyce Purdie, 79, added: “If the ticket office closed, I couldn’t use the machine. I wouldn’t know where to start.

“Probably these youngsters would be alright, but it’s the elderly people who would suffer.”

Knebworth commuter Clare Donnelly said: “I think it would be a nightmare during rush hour in the morning.

“This station is so busy and there needs to be someone here to facilitate the smooth running of it.”