The Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union has denounced plans to replace Whitechapel station’s staffed ticket office with machines as the station is turned into a Crossrail interchange.
Major rebuilding work being carried out at the station includes the demolition of the existing ticket office, which will be replaced by ticket machines in July 2014.
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said: “The threat to the ticket office at Whitechapel is a line in the sand and we will fight this plan tooth and nail.
“RMT is in no doubt that if the Whitechapel ticket office is axed it will open the floodgates to a surge of closures in the drive to de-staffing which will turn the Underground into a criminals’ paradise and leave passengers who need support and advice stranded.
“We will be taking this political fight for the future of ticket offices straight to Boris Johnson, reminding him that he publicly pledged not to close Tube ticket offices as part of his election campaign.”
London Assembly Member John Biggs (Labour), representing Tower Hamlets as part of the City and East constituency, has branded the plans a “backward step”.
Biggs said: “I am deeply concerned that Transport for London are planning to close the ticket office at Whitechapel station, and not provide one in the new station. This station needs a ticket office where residents and visitors can speak to a member of staff directly and receive the range of services a ticket office provides. To get rid of the ticket office there would be a backwards step.
“Whitechapel is a busy station, set to become even busier with the arrival of Crossrail. We all need to use a ticket window from time to time. Closing Whitechapel ticket office would set a dangerous precedent for the future of ticket offices at busy stations elsewhere in London. I urge the Mayor to reconsider his plans and keep the ticket office open, and provide one in the new station.”
A spokesperson for transport users watchdog London TravelWatch said that it has not been consulted about any plans to close the ticket office adding: “We would expect that the ticket office would be rebuilt as part of the Crossrail works as there would be a need for a ticket office given the volume of passengers who will be using the station.”
In his Transport Manifesto 2009 Boris Johnson pledged to make transport more convenient: “By halting the proposed Tube ticket office closures, and ensuring there is always a manned ticket office at every station.”
In a statement to EastLondonLines, Gareth Powell, director of strategy and service development for London Underground, said: “Where we are redeveloping a station we seek to make the best possible use of space, and in some cases this could mean redeveloping a station with increased ticketing technology rather than a replacement ticket office.”
“Our plans for Whitechapel, which will increase station capacity with the arrival of Crossrail and enable us to improve accessibility by providing another lift in the ticket hall area, were shared with trade unions last year.”
Whitechapel station is currently an interchange for the District, Hammersmith and City and Overground lines. Crossrail services from the station are expected to start in 2018.