‘The new machine is as unreliable as the ticket office’ – Meldreth rail users’ frustration as problems paying for tickets continue

Elizabeth Allen and Susan van de Ven at Meldreth station.

Elizabeth Allen and Susan van de Ven at Meldreth station. - Credit: Archant

Rail commuters in Meldreth are becomingly increasingly frustrated as problems buying train tickets continue in the village.

There is a ticket office and a new ticket machine at the station, but villagers say the office is regularly unmanned while the ticket machine is not working.

Susan van de Ven, who lives in the village and chairs the Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group, said: “In a 10-day period Meldreth station ticket office has been closed five times without warning – it’s now a lottery as to whether or not paying passengers will find the office open, even though it is advertised as open six mornings per week.

“There is never any warning – not even on Twitter, which Govia Thameslink Railway ostensibly uses to keep passengers updated on any service changes.”

There is a new ticket machine at the station, but users said ‘it’s as unreliable as the ticket office’.

“I’ve received complaints from people who say that they’ve bought tickets, but can’t collect them from a machine that’s not working,” said Susan, who is also a Cambs county councillor.

“One lady told me that she can’t use her senior railcard with the ticket machine, even though she’s travelling at a time of day that allows discounted travel.”

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Elizabeth Allen commutes to work via Meldreth station from Bassingbourn.

“One day last week when the booking office was closed, I stood in a long queue for the ticket machine only for it flash ‘out of order’ when my turn finally arrived,” she said.

“Another day I gave up and drove to work.”

Susan said the booking office is important because it allows people without internet access or credit cards to buy tickets and travel legally, and provides back-up when things go wrong.

She also said that as Govia issues strong warnings about fines and prosecution for people travelling without a valid ticket, not everyone has confidence that they will be believed when they arrive at their destination without a ticket.

“Confidence in the company’s word has taken a blow, which is very sad considering the excellent relationship that has been built up over the years,” said Susan.

“Hopefully Govia will turn the situation around and restore confidence and trust.”

A spokesman for Govia Thameslink told the Crow: “We pride ourselves on the close working relationship we have developed with Susan van de Ven to improve Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton, and together run a successful community rail partnership there. This makes us doubly concerned that she feels we are letting our passengers down and do apologise sincerely.

“The simple fact is we do have enough staff, but there has been some short-term sickness on top of long-term illness that has forced us to close the ticket office at Meldreth too many times. We are confident that we have the resource to now keep it open while we train up more people to take on the role.

“The ticket machine at Meldreth is brand new and, after some initial teething problems, has been working well. However, without someone in the ticket office to empty the cash box, it can sometimes switch to ‘cards only’ so with the ticket office staffed again this should not be a problem.

“We are putting up posters reminding passengers that they can buy a permit to travel then buy their ticket at the other end of the journey if the ticket machine is not working and the office is closed.”

Susan urges anyone who has experienced problems to contact the rail user group via the website meldrethsheprethfoxtonrail.org.uk.