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LU promises to boost staff visibility as part of ticket office action plan

London Underground (LU) has agreed to take new measures to make its services safer and easier to use after a watchdog report criticised the impact of ticket office closures.

Almost all ticket offices on the network were closed in 2015 under the Fit for the Future programme.

An independent report into the closures by London TravelWatch, published this week, rejected the idea of reopening the offices but warned that they have led to passengers feeling less safe, staff being less visible and access problems for disabled travellers.

As part of the watchdog’s urgent recommendations, Transport for London (TfL) has now submitted a draft action plan for dealing with the closures to be presented at a board meeting on 15 December.

In the papers, it admitted that “there is more to do to improve the visibility of staff at stations”. The organisation promised to immediately review what can be done to improve staff visibility at the most high-risk stations, including by amending rosters.

A review of staffing numbers and deployment by a joint working group between TfL and unions, supported by ACAS, is also due to report to the board on 15 December.

After London TravelWatch warned that staff’s dark blue uniforms were making them less visible to passengers, TfL said it would trial “a high-visibility garment”, such as a red vest, with the aim of making it available to staff by August 2017. From March 2017, staff will also have cases to make it easier to carry their handheld devices.

The watchdog report had also revealed that station staff were ‘grouping’ together, making it difficult for passengers to ask questions. TfL replied that it would issue new guidance to staff about ‘grouping’, and consider a mystery shopper exercise to identify the stations where the problem was worse.

In addition, TfL is trialling having a staffed information point to make it easier for passengers to contact employees at Westminster station. The two-month trial will conclude in January.

TfL will also test focal points at three examples of the different types of stations – gateways, destinations, metros and locals – with results due in March.

Similarly, the organisation promised to make “immediate changes” to help passengers feel safer at stations. These included using customer communications to increase awareness of staffing levels, followed by a review to determine if improvements are needed in CCTV coverage or lighting.

Regarding concerns about disabled passengers, it promised to carry out a review to find out why the ‘Turn Up and Go’ process – where staff are meant to ring ahead to alert colleagues at the next station of assistance a disabled passenger may need – is not working properly.

It is currently trialling portable hearing loops, with a report on this due in January, and will improve station information to highlight the location of help points and move them if necessary.

TfL also agreed to implement a recommendation to update the signage on ticket machines. However, it rejected the suggestion that annual season tickets should be available on ticket machines, instead saying it would e-mail customers a reminder of how to buy them.

Instead of adopting a recommendation to lift the 48-hour restriction on Oyster card refunds, TfL said it would reduce the restriction to 24 hours.

(Image c. Yui Mok from PA Wire)

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