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UPDATE: sign the petition against closure of York Station travel centre

Virgin Trains East Coast plan to introduce a first class lounge into York station and increase the number of retail outlets. Although this may sound good this is all part of a plan to reduce costs by reducing the number of staff needed at the station.

The main negative change is that the travel centre as we know it will be closed and replaced with a 'customer zone'. The current travel centre has a mix of self service ticket machines and a number of attended ticket desks. The 'customer zone' will close the desks, increase the number of machines and staff will provide assistance via hand held devices.

Although I do think the need for a traditional ticket office is getting smaller over time there's still a significant number of people who need to perform tasks that are difficult, if not impossible, online or with self service machines and it's important that major stations still provide the appropriate facilities to meet this customer need.

Although the new self service machines introduced by Virgin Trains East Coast can now sell tickets for future travel, there's still many ticket types it can't sell and so a user of these machines may not realise that there's a rover or ranger ticket that suits their travel plans better than a single or return, if they regularly travel the same route they won't see the price of a carnet ticket or the various season ticket options. Sometimes it's just easier to talk to a trained advisor.

The new ticket machines have also had reliability issues since they've been launched so any move to remove all the ticket windows needs to take into account the difficulty customers will have if all the machines are down and there's only a few staff with hand held devices (generally slower to issue tickets than dedicated desktop PCs) issuing tickets.

A first class lounge in York sounds good and by the sounds of it will occupy some of the space taken up by the travel centre currently. There is other space they can use in the station too, there's some old office space that looked vacant that used to be used by East Coast, it may be possible to fit the lounge in there.

Let's see what happens. In the meantime I urge VTEC to consider the implications of closing the traditional ticket windows. This may be comething that can be considered in five or so years time when mobile ticketing is more widespread and the technology is more mature.