FURIOUS campaigners have branded a decision to shut some train station ticket offices in the afternoon “short-sighted”.

Greater Anglia plans to reduce the opening times of ticket offices at Braintree, Kelvedon and Hatfield Peverel stations from November 24.

Under the proposals, Kelvedon’s office would close at 12.30pm, Hatfield Peverel at 1pm and Braintree at 3.30pm.

Witham Station is unaffected by the plans.

Greater Anglia says the closures have been brought in because of low ticket sales on weekday afternoons and insists the change reflects trends across the retail sector and services such as councils and doctor’s surgeries.

But Kelvedon Rail Users’ Association has hit out at the plans, which it says were not put out to consultation and will leave the station unmanned.

Chairman Mark Leslie said: “There are a whole raft of reasons why we are not happy about this.

“Greater Anglia haven’t consulted any stakeholders on this and just seem to have kept it under the radar.

Braintree and Witham Times:

“They’re always happy to blow their own trumpet when it suits them but they have said very little about this.

“It’s unfair that every year they go for the maximum increase on ticket prices but keep on finding ways to reduce the service.”

Mr Leslie fears the decision to close ticket offices will have a severe impact on wheelchair-bound passengers, who may be forced to get off at Witham due to the lack of staff at the three stations involved in the closure plan.

He also says the shorter opening times means customers will have to use ticket machines, which he fears will be difficult for the visually impaired and blind.

He said: “Passengers are going to be left waiting for their trains in the cold when it gets to winter time.

“With the ticket offices closed, they will have nowhere to wait in the warm.

“I really can’t understand the decision.

“They must be making a fortune from Kelvedon station alone.

“It serves a lot of areas and a very large population.

“That population is going to be going up and up with the thousands of new homes being built around here.

“It does seem like they are rushing this and it will be a case of the horse has bolted because they will have more people using the station.”

David Bigg, chairman of Witham and Braintree Rail Users’ Association, said Greater Anglia’s decision was an “appalling move” and is asking for assurances to protect vulnerable passengers.

He added: “It’s a crude cost-cutting exercise and nothing more.

Braintree and Witham Times:

“These plans aren’t in the interest of the customers who should always come first.

“The branch line gets a rough deal and with the delays on the line, it is hugely significant that Braintree station could be left with no staff in the ticket office.

“I’m still waiting to hear back about a lot of our concerns and we need assurances from Greater Anglia.

“We are asking them to rethink this because it will affect a lot more people than they realise.”

Braintree councillor Paul Thorogood, who represents Kelvedon and Feering, added: “These stations take in a huge revenue from commuters every week day and to cut staff hours to save pennies is very short-sighted.

“This will seriously impact disabled and blind passengers and will deter use of public transport when we’re all trying to be green.”

Braintree and Witham Times:

Train operator defends decision

GREATER Anglia says there will be no job losses as a result of its decision to close some station ticket offices in the afternoons.

The firm says the changes have been approved by the Department for Transport.

A spokesman said: “We have decided to make some minor changes to the opening hours at Kelvedon, Hatfield Peverel and Braintree ticket offices, reflecting very low ticket sales at these ticket offices during weekday afternoons.

“The changes will take place later this year.

“There will be no job losses as a result.

“Customers will still be able to buy tickets and request assistance at the station using a recently upgraded ticket machine, which includes a 24/7 help button which connects to our Norwich call centre.”

Greater Anglia says the changes have been brought in following the creation of new customer service roles, which has seen extra ticket barrier staff, a customer response team to maintain ticket machines and help desk roles.

The train operator did not confirm whether these positions would be taken up at the three stations affected.