Rail line set to go ticketless

The busy c2c Fenchurch Street rail line is set to go ticketless by the end of the year, making ticket machines and offices “surplus” to requirements it has been revealed.

The route from Shoebury to the capital is to launch a pilot scheme which will allow travellers to use credit or debit cards to “pay as you go”, or smart tickets – digital tickets which are loaded onto smart cards or stored on mobile phones.

Announcing the scheme, Sir James Duddridge, Conservative MP for Rochford and Southend East, said the move could put an end to time-consuming queues at ticket machines.

It comes after commuters regularly complained of broken ticket machines at stations.

Sir James said: “By the end of the year we should be getting touch-in touch-out cards so c2c will be one of the pilots and we’ll be able to use our Visa cards and debit cards.

“I was always in favour of what was going to be the Oysterisation of c2c. Now tech supports that in a slightly different way.

“The focus with c2c will be having people at the station but not necessarily being in the ticket office. I suspect the ticket machines will remain for the longer journeys. In some cases you would need to collect tickets so there may be a machine for that but the vast majority of users, the people behind the screens and indeed the machines will be surplus to use.”

The East Beach Residents’ Association recently gave a 600-signature petition to save the Shoebury ticket office from closure to Mr Duddridge to present to Parliament.

Spokesman Louise Wilcox said: “We are extremely disappointed to hear that residents’ concerns appear to have been disregarded. We have consistently made the point that not all travellers wish to use their debit cards. There should be a variety of ticket purchase options. Additionally, the ticket office staff assist with planning journeys and finding the cheapest and quickest route.”

A spokesman for c2c said timings of the scheme would be announced shortly, adding: “This will offer more smart ticketing options and will help customers travel more flexibly and conveniently as well as supporting the wider economic recovery of the region through easier access to rail travel.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter