The Sunday Telegraph - Business & Money

End of the line signalled for paper train tickets

The Government plans to roll out system across the South East which will work with London’s Oyster cards

- By Oliver Gill

MINISTERS are preparing to scrap paper rail tickets across south-east England by rolling out contactles­s payments that will be integrated into London’s Oyster card regime.

Transport officials want to expand pay-as-you-go smartcards in what is understood to be a preemptive strike against trade union opposition to the closure of thousands of ticket offices.

The Department for Transport has launched a tender to select a company to run the rollout of ticketless fares at stations across the Home Counties, according to a Government filing.

Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, pledged earlier this year to “simplify the current confusing mass of tickets” and bring an end to paper ticket queues.

Mr Shapps is under pressure to find large savings after handing subsidies to rail operators in excess of £10bn during the pandemic.

Industry leaders have been warned that the Department for Transport does not enjoy protected status in the eyes of the Treasury ahead of Rishi Sunak’s spending review. They were told to expect a “tough settlement” during a conference call between officials and industry leaders last week.

Some £2bn of annual savings need to be identified by the rail industry to balance the books after the pandemic accelerate­d a shift towards home working, dramatical­ly cutting the number of daily commuters. Roughly a fifth of the savings will need to come from job cuts, with ticket offices expected to bear the brunt. Thousands of redundanci­es are planned, with only driver positions expected to be unaffected.

However, union leaders have vowed to oppose the cuts. Rail workers are in the middle of a two-year pay freeze, but bosses at the RMT believe that Nicola Sturgeon has opened the door to increases over the next year.

The SNP leader offered rail workers a 4.7pc rise last week in an attempt to break the deadlock in a dispute that risks transport chaos during next month’s Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow.

RMT chiefs are holding out for a better deal, despite the inflation-busting offer being better than that offered to doctors and nurses and at odds with a public sector pay freeze elsewhere.

A spokesman for the Government said: “Our Plan for Rail makes clear our intention to grow contactles­s ticketing across the network, making journeys quicker and more convenient for passengers.”

Separately, the deputy chairman of a parliament­ary committee that monitors government spending has written to the head of the National Audit Office to raise concerns about inflation-busting pay increases at the nationalis­ed rail operator.

The Daily Telegraph reported on Monday that bosses at the parent of the LNER and Northern rail lines had been awarded a near 6pc pay rise last year.

Conservati­ve MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-brown, deputy chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, wrote to Gareth Davies, comptrolle­r and auditor general, to investigat­e the £1.3bn taxpayer subsidy that was handed to the state-owned operator. He said: “This wholly owned company is very little known outside railway circles … deserves a little more scrutiny.”

 ?? ?? Rail unions believe Nicola Sturgeon has paved the way for pay rises over the next year despite a wage freeze
Rail unions believe Nicola Sturgeon has paved the way for pay rises over the next year despite a wage freeze

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