The Government has warned South West Trains against lapses in staffing at its stations, after it gave the go ahead to close Berrylands station’s ticket offices at weekends.

South West Trains (SWT) proposed the changes at a number of train ticket offices across Surrey and south-west London, claiming they were not needed since the introduction of pay-as-you-go Oyster cards on the rail network in January.

In a letter to SWT, a Department of Transport official said the changes were endorsed on the proviso each station had a help point with access to information, and that SWT did not charge fees for sales made on the internet and telesales services.

He added: “It should also be noted that the Secretary of State expects that the hours you proposed are staffed robustly – and discussions will be finalised with officials on earlier lapses in this regard.”

But similar proposals for Malden Manor and Motspur Park were rejected by the Department of Transport on Monday, although Berrylands and Malden Manor’s ticket offices were already closed on Sundays.

Sharon Grant, chairman of train watchdog London TravelWatch, said: “Despite most of our objections being accepted, we are disappointed that Barnes, Berrylands and Strawberry Hill will still see some reduction of hours.

“Passengers must be able to buy the full range of tickets and to have access to any discount to which they are entitled. If ticket machines do not have this range, it is profoundly unfair for passengers.”

Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union, had criticised SWT’s plans, claiming it would lead to more assaults at evenings and weekends.

Mr 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.

“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.”

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