Rail companies around the country are slashing ticket office opening hours and cutting ticket-selling jobs, using the pretext that the internet, smartcards and other new technologies make ticket offices less relevant. It can seem hard to argue against this, but there are several relevant points.
- The companies often manipulate the impact of the new technologies through deliberate policies to push custom away from ticket offices towards other outlets.
- While some people are paying fares on the internet, many still prefer the face-to-face contact of an open ticket office.
- Smartcards have benefits, but also have many technical hitches and difficulties.
If socialists ran public transport, we would make it free. So there would be no ticket offices or ticket-selling jobs. But we would not cut jobs overall; we would have more staff in other areas of the station; we would build new lines and extensions which would need staff; and we would cut working hours.
But the companies are not scrapping or even cutting fares. They use new technology in ticketing even while they leave safety and operational systems in the 19th century.
Better technology could make our working life easier, reducing our working hours or lightening our workload. But the employers see it as an excuse to get rid of us instead.
We have to fight for control over the terms and conditions under which new technology is introduced; for shorter hours and easier work conditions rather than job cuts.