Ballina, Castlebar, Claremorris and Ballyhaunis train stations look set to be completely automated, with no staff at the stations processing tickets, from March of this year. That’s according to Mayo Fianna Fail deputy Lisa Chambers.
The deputy believes that this will impact negatively on many train users and she has written to Iarnrod Eireann to clarify its plans and is strongly opposing any such development.
Deputy Chambers says that from March of this year, the ticket machines used by staff to sell train tickets in the stations will become obsolete and will not be replaced. Rail passengers will have to purchase tickets on line or at the self service ticket machines at the stations.
In county Mayo she has been told that Westport train station is the only train station in the county that will get a new machine.
If this happens she argues, than staff at the stations without a facility to sell tickets directly to customers, will become redundant and will be transferred to other locations.
In a statement to Midwest News a spokesperson for Irish Rail says:
We have stated previously and publically, including briefings of elected representatives, that we do plan to change the way we provide customer service, both on-board and in stations, to reflect changing customer requirements.
Traditional booking office ticket purchases today represent only 13% of total revenue, and are reducing – 87% of our revenue across all networks is now generated through ticket vending machines, online booking, and other automated channels.
However, customers still want and require customer service assistance for their journey, particularly on board longer-distance services where many trains are currently driver-only. This can result in people having customer service personnel available for the 5 minutes they are in the station, but not three hours they’re on the train.
To meet this need, Iarnród Éireann is planning to improve its customer services to ensure more customers receive the support and service required as routine ticketing becomes more automated.
This will mean:
- An increase in on-board staffing, to provide on-board customer service officers on Intercity services, helping customers with boarding, seat reservations, and customer service information
- Station staffing re-focused to provide customer service and assistance in the station area, with a mix of manned and self-service stations reflecting customer demand and usage patterns
- Equipping on-board and station staff with enhanced information and support to assist customers
On-board Customer Service Officer deployment has begun. We do anticipate that there will be changes in stations during 2019, which will include stations with full ticket sales, some stations having customer service staff for customer assistance, with ticketing through automated channels, and some stations becoming unmanned.
However, final details of these changes have not yet been confirmed including timescales, and we will engage with employees and our customers to outline these changes nationwide, including in Mayo.
The changes in customer service will mean that customers will have continuous access to customer service support on Intercity services, including assistance for customers with mobility and sensory impairments; better service information; better delivery of seat reservations; and a deterrent to anti-social behaviour.