Thetford tourism at risk if ticket office closes

Thetford could lose its railway ticket office under proposals put forward in a government-commissioned report, at a time when local officials are attempting to boost the town’s tourism potential.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) said it had discovered a “hit list” of 675 stations, or one in four throughout England and Wales, which could be left unstaffed under the recommendations.

This includes Thetford, which is currently open Monday to Saturday from 7am to 1.30pm, which could see ticket services replaced with an electronic machine.

Councillor for the Castle Ward Corinne Fulford, who is also manager of the Charles Burrell and Dad’s Army museums, said: “I can’t express my disappointment strongly enough really.

“Here we are growing in tourism all the time and people are wanting to find out about us and to be honest I’m trying to find ways of it opening for longer.

“Of course you can get all manner of things on the internet but it’s people contact which counts and very often the people I meet will get far more from talking to somebody.

“I think it’s a shame and it’s a backward step.

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“We’re looking at doubling the size of our town and we’re being told to try to encourage people to not use their cars and to take the train more but how is it going to work?

“I don’t see how this is looking forward.”

TSSA officials said the list appeared in a report drawn up by Sir Roy McNulty on how to achieve savings in the railway industry, but was not printed in the executive summary.

They only discovered the recommendation to scrap hundreds of ticket offices when they read the full report, which runs to hundreds of pages.

South west Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss however said that while she believed the closures would be “unlikely” under current franchise agreements, she would push to ensure this remained the case when those agreements came to an end.

“The future of ticketing at Thetford will be down to the train operating companies and I am calling for them to commit to maintaining ticketing at both stations in advance of the franchise decision being made in 2012/2013,” she said.

“People paying more in fares want to see proper facilities at stations and I believe that well-run stations can increase passenger numbers.

“Furthermore, I want those contesting the franchise to say what they are going to do to bring the buildings at Thetford station back into use to improve the amenity.

“I believe this could allow for innovative thinking in the provision of ticket facilities.”

A Department of Transport said: “We are currently considering the findings of Sir Roy McNulty’s independent report and any of his proposed changes to rail fares or ticketing will be examined as part of a government review.”