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It is another sign of the changing face of Sydney's rail network due to technology.
Instead of tickets, train passengers will soon be buying other goods and services from scores of ticket offices which will have been turned into shops by November.
With the Opal electronic ticketing system firmly entrenched, Sydney Trains has decided to lease out 30 ticket offices at stations across the rail network following their closure.
The ticket offices to be leased to retailers range from those at stations at Gosford, in the north, to Wollongong in the south, and Central Station and Martin Place in Sydney's CBD. They are located in prime spots at stations, and are up to 135 square metres in size.
In a presentation to potential lessees, Sydney Trains said the introduction of Opal had ‘‘streamlined operational and staffing requirements’’ across its rail network and resulted in ‘‘the creation of new retail opportunities’’ in re-purposed ticket offices.
Many of the ticket offices have thousands of people pass them every hour.
The plan to lease the ticket offices comes almost two years after transport officials ended the sale of the last paper-based tickets. The introduction of Opal has resulted in the gradual closure of 300 ticketing offices across the rail network since 2014.
It has also enabled Sydney Trains to remove ticket-selling positions.
While Sydney Trains' annual reports do not reveal the number of ticket-selling roles, they do show that station staff have been cut significantly in the past four years, falling from 1918 people in the 2013-14 financial year to 1408 in 2016-17.
Sydney Trains said staff who previously worked in the 300 ticketing offices closed since 2014 had been given the opportunity to work in customer service roles on platforms and station concourses.
“Many of the old ticketing offices have been refurbished into retail spaces for our customers,” a spokesman said. “All revenue from the retail spaces is invested back into the operation of the network, helping to reduce the amount of taxpayer subsidy required to operate the network.”
Labor transport spokeswoman Jodi McKay said money raised from the leases should be directed to fast-tracking work on improving the accessibility of stations for people with a disability or parents with prams.
“This should be more than just a lazy cash grab from public assets,” she said.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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