South West Trains Cutting Ticket Office Hours

South West Trains is being accused of "profit-driven vandalism'' after gaining approval for cuts to station ticket office opening hours.

The Rail Maritime and Transport union said cuts at 11 of the rail firm's stations in southern England had been approved by the Transport Department despite objections from passengers, warning the move would lead to a further deterioration in customer service and "seriously increase'' the risk of assaults at evenings and weekends.

General secretary Bob Crow said:

"Once again South West Trains has put its shareholders' dividends ahead of any consideration for safety and service for passengers with what can only be described as profit-driven vandalism.

"These cuts will mean more deserted stations, which will mean greater risk of assault for passengers and our members, as well as locked-up waiting rooms and toilets, and they will have a disproportionate effect on people with disabilities and on women travelling alone.

"Ticket offices aren't only about selling tickets, they are about trained, uniformed staff offering helps and advice, about having a physical presence on stations to give a feeling of security and deterring assaults and vandalism.''

Mr Crow said passengers wanted to see more uniformed staff on stations, adding that SWT's parent company Stagecoach had shown that its "sole concern'' was making the maximum profit.

"Rather than approving these cuts the government should be building into franchises minimum staffing levels that will ensure safety, security and service levels that people need.''

The union said cuts had been approved at Ash Vale, Brookwood, Camberley, Clandon, Crewkerne, Hinchley Wood, Netley, Pokesdown, St Denys, Sunningdale and Whitchurch (Hampshire), with proposed cuts awaiting approval at Barnes, Berrylands, Christchurch; Farncombe, Strawberry Hill and Virginia Water.