The Friends of Handforth Station are delighted that at the end of October 2023 the government asked train operators to withdraw their proposals to close Handforth Station’s ticket office (and many others) because “they failed to meet high passenger standards”.
While our initial reaction is relief, and satisfaction that our campaigning contributed towards the country-wide backlash against the proposals, we know that the rail industry still has a directive to cut costs. We’ll continue to watch for further announcements, and we’ll continue to campaign to make sure that the services at Handforth Station are improved and not made worse.
At the beginning of July 2023, rail companies across the country announced plans to close most of the ticket offices for which they were responsible. In the case of Northern Trains, this meant that 130 ticket offices were to be closed. Northern Trains proposed to replace the Stationmaster in Handforth Station’s ticket office with a Journey Maker (with no access to the ticket office).
When the announcement was made, the FoHS solicited comments from local residents and train users; over 90% of respondents classified themselves as “against” the proposals. Accordingly, the FoHS campaigned strongly against the proposals, by organising a demonstration at the station (see below), by writing to Esther McVey, MP, by raising the profile of Handforth Station’s specific issues, and by adding comments to various online petitions.
The FoHS submitted, to the Consultation Process in Summer, our detailed comments on the proposal. Thanks to all the residents of Handforth, and users of our station, for your contributions.
Northern Trains provided details of the plans here: Changing how we support customers at our stations. (Note: this link is outside FoHS control and may change at any time.)
To help you understand the main changes as they were proposed in early Summer 2023, here’s a summary of the key implications for users of Handforth Station as we saw them in Summer 2023:
- The amount of time the station is staffed will be reduced (by 4 hours per day – see details below). With the only way of buying a ticket at the station then being the single ticket machine, greater help for users of the ticket machine will be needed, with longer hours of staffing, rather than shorter hours.
- If tickets can be bought at the station only via ticket machine, this will severely disadvantage those travellers who cannot pay by contactless, or who are unable to use the ticket machine. Alternatives for them must be provided.
- Currently, the ticket office is the only provider of shelter at road level. The current closure plans for Handforth do not include alternative provision of shelter at road level.
- If tickets can be bought at the station only via ticket machine, there is currently no shelter for users of the ticket machine. Shelter must be provided for users of the ticket machine.
- Only one ticket machine is available. An alternative must be provided to prevent distress and confusion if that becomes unavailable.
- There is currently no step-free access to the ticket machine. Step-free access must be provided before that becomes the only source of tickets at the station.
- Although Handforth Station has CCTV installed, this does not work properly. Upgraded and fully-working CCTV with expanded coverage must be installed before any ticket office closure is implemented.
Here’s how the proposals would affect staffing at the station:
- The Stationmaster currently works 06:30-13:00 Mondays to Fridays, and 07:30-14:00 on Saturdays.
- The new Journey Maker would work 09:30-12:00 Mondays to Fridays, and 11:30-14:00 on Saturdays.
- Currently, trains serve Handforth station between 06:15 and 23:59 Mondays to Saturdays, and 08:29-23:17 on Sundays.