Gissa Ticket!

YouTube film screenshot - Lynne FeatherstoneHere’s my latest Ham & High column:

A few days ago I met the new CEO of First Capital Connect, the train company which services much of Haringey. I talked to Jim Morgan in particular about the issues arising from their cut backs to ticket office opening hours at Hornsey, Bowes Park, Alexandra Palace and Harringay stations.

Although the previous campaigning by myself and residents helped reduce the extent of the cuts, the opening hours have still been severely reduced. A local resident contacted me about long queues at ticket machines when the ticket offices are closed. Imagine how cross it makes you when you are running for a train – and you have to miss it because of even one or two people buying tickets at the machine. Mind you, that is when the ticket machines are working – and as if on cue when I turned up to film a clip for YouTube about the problems, the ticket machine at Harringay was out of order and the ticket office closed!

When the machine is out of order you’re forced to travel without a ticket which means at best having to explain at the other end that the machine is not working and at worst that they try and give you a penalty fare. It’s a far too common bane of contemporary life – people who want to obey the law find obstacles put in their way because the authorities (rail company in this case) doesn’t do its end of the deal.

Please watch the YouTube clip at www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWMbZAxF4U8 – it really demonstrates the problem. In it I also highlight the problems with signs at Alexandra Palace Station. At both Alexandra Palace Station and at Harringay station there aren’t signs in the places that you need them to tell you where to buy a ticket – whether from the ticket office or machines. If you know the stations and know where to go, that is fine. But woe betide the irregular or new traveller, particularly in the dark. You can be left hunting around, up stair and down stair, over platform and along platform for the place to hand over your money – with buggy, children, luggage. How helpful is that?

Imagine a shop behaving like that – hiding away without signs where you pay your money!

So – one message to Mr Morgan was to get the signs improved. On the reliability of the ticket machines – he told me that they were very expensive and didn’t break down very often. Given my visit to film the YouTube video found that the only machine was indeed ‘out of service’ I have asked him to supply me with figures for numbers of hours / days when the Harringay Station ticket machine has been out of service over the last year. We will see whether I just had bad luck or whether ‘not very often’ is actually rather often!

More positively on the signs, for Alexandra Palace Station he agreed with me about the problem and is going to investigate what can be done – including repairing the only sign that is easily visible from one direction – but points completely the wrong way! On the Harringay signs – well, that is really a symptom of the ticket machine being on one platform and so out of the way for people using the other platform. So he’s going to first look at the location of that machine.

When First Capital Connect reduced the opening hours of the ticket offices, they agreed to monitor how the changes at the stations in Hornsey & Wood Green were affected during an eight week period. That time is now up – and I asked Mr Morgan for the results of that monitoring. He did not have the figures to hand but said that they had ‘monitored’ queuing times and volume of sales were still in steady decline. However he said they would not be reducing the hours any further. I should hope not! He said the report would be finalised by the end of next month.

Finally, of course I asked him how Oyster Pay-As-You-Go was going. We’ve been long promised that it would be made available for the train services that serve these stations – but we’re still waiting. Jim Morgan told me, “I am very optimistic that the Train Operating Companies will start accepting Oyster PAYG early in the New Year”. Let’s hope his ‘optimism’ is well founded – but I will be nagging between now and then to make sure that doesn’t change! We’ve waited (as have the installed machines) far too long for TfLand First Capital Connect to get their act together on making life easier for us passengers.

If you’ve got any views on these issues – or other ones related to those train stations – do let me know, particularly as I will be regularly checking with Jim Morgan to make sure the promised progress happened. You can email lynne@lynnefeatherstone.org or write to me at House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA