Almost a million journeys are made to or from Farnham railway station every year – and yet the town’s only public transport hub could soon be unstaffed every afternoon and evening and all day on Sundays.
South Western Railway (SWR) lists Farnham as a ‘category 3’ station in its ongoing consultation on ticket office closures, meaning there would be staff present to help passengers only during the morning until 12.45pm, Monday to Saturday.
This has been slammed by Farnham Town Council, which in a lengthy 600-word response to SWR, calls for Farnham to be staffed for a much longer period covering “all” the afternoons and early evenings, and for a ticket vending machine (TVM) on the Alton-bound platform.
All three of Farnham’s existing TVMs are on the London-bound platform.
The town council also criticised the “very short” consultation period, but the Rail Delivery Group, representing UK rail operators, this week agreed to extend its consultation until September 1.
And it has expressed concern that the closure of the station’s ticket office could disproportionately affect the elderly and less able, in breach of the Equality Act.
Responding to South Western Railway’s consultation plans to “modernise the railway” by doing away with ticket offices, the town council slammed the initial 21-day consultation period and said more time is required to allow detailed Equality Act Assessments to be prepared “for each station”.
Its response continued: “On the face of it, it appears the Equality Act will be breached by the proposals particularly as some 20 per cent of the UK population is disabled.”
The town council accepted some change is necessary to reflect changing passenger trends with the number of tickets bought through ticket offices reducing from 82 per cent in the 1990s to 12 per cent present day.
It also welcomed the proposed training to enable all staff to undertake a wider range of functions including sale of tickets.
The town council is, however, “very concerned that the times at which staff will actually be present at Farnham station will be significantly reduced”.
It continued: “As a Category 3 station, there will only be staff present during the morning until 12.45pm and Farnham station will be unstaffed during afternoons and evenings and all day on Sundays.”
The latest statistics for the year ending March 31, 2022, reveal there are an estimated 930,506 passenger entries and exits at Farnham annually, of which 158,082 entries and exits are by regular passengers travelling on season tickets.
The town council argues Farnham is a well-used station with four trains per hour (two between Alton and Waterloo and two between Farnham and Guildford).
And “if these proposals are to actually be implemented,” it believes the station should be staffed “for a much longer period covering all the afternoons and early evenings to provide general assistance to all passengers and ensure full accessibility to facilities at the station”.
The town council has also called for the installation of an additional accessible ticket vending machine (TVM) on the Alton-bound platform, as the existing three TVMs are all located on the London-bound side of the station.
In addition, the council states all TVMs must be able to offer the full range of discounts – including the 50 per cent wheelchair user discounts only currently available at ticket offices – and be fully accessible. Help points will also need to be easily accessible and well-signposted.