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London Bridge and Waterloo tube ticket office closures 'step too far'

Closing every London Underground ticket office in London - including those at London Bridge and Waterloo - is "a step too far", says a senior City Hall politician.

This week Mayor of London Boris Johnson revealed plans to close every London Underground ticket office.

Six busy stations – all north of the river – will have 'visitor information centres' but travellers at busy interchange stations in SE1 will in future have to rely on self-service ticket vending machines.

"My commitment to London is that all tube stations will continue to be staffed and controlled in future, with more staff visible and available to help customers buy the right ticket, plan their journey and keep them safe and secure," said London Underground managing director Mike Brown.

The impact on passengers at stations like London Bridge – which has direct rail services from both Gatwick and Luton airports – has been highlighted by Caroline Pidgeon AM, leader of the Lib Dem London Assembly group.

"Some of these changes are inevitable and some are also welcome," she said.

"However closing every ticket office – including at such busy stations as Waterloo and London Bridge – is a step too far.

"Providing 'visitor information centres' at just six major London stations is totally inadequate. Tourists and visitors to London need to be able to easily find someone if they are buying a ticket for the first time.

"Hunting down a member of staff within a crowded station is not the same as being able to easily locate a ticket office."

The package of measures announced by the Mayor this week includes the prospect of an all-night service on some Underground lines on Friday and Saturday nights from 2015.

The 'Night Tube' plan includes through-the-night services on the Jubilee line through SE1, as well as the Charing Cross branch of the Northern line via Waterloo.

Lines where major upgrades are due – such as the Bakerloo line – have not been included in the initial 'Night Tube' proposals. The City branch of the Northern line has also been omitted, meaning that Elephant & Castle misses out entirely.

However, plans to rebuild the Northern line station at Elephant & Castle in the coming years are likely to make night services from that station unfeasible.

"Boris' dreams for a night tube could become a nightmare for passengers if there aren't any staff to provide help," said Simon Hughes, MP for Bermondsey & Old Southwark.

"I fully support modernising transport infrastructure across London to improve services for customers. However, updating our transport system requires more than simply replacing real people with ticket machines and cutting decent and necessary jobs.

"During the 90 day consultation period, I will be calling on the Mayor to provide cast iron guarantees that station staff numbers will be maintained to adequate and safe levels and that customers including some of the most vulnerable people in our community who often rely on the tube for their transport will still be able to receive help if they need it.

"I know Londoners will find it hard to believe that there will be more staff visible and available if the Mayor is planning to cut almost 1000 jobs."

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