More French train stations lose their manned ticket desks

SNCF says it will help it invest more in trains but workers say ticket machines cannot replace people

Worker unions say that replacing manned ticket desks with a few workers and ticket machines is not satisfactory

Fourteen train stations in the south-east of France have permanently closed their manned ticket counters in a move that is becoming increasingly common across the country.

Since May 1, TER train stations in Alpes-Maritimes and Var have no longer had any counters. At eight of the busier stations, they have been replaced by two SNCF agents with mobile payment terminals. Travellers who want help with tickets or trains must now ask these agents.

"Their tasks mainly include helping people to use regional ticket machines and provide digital support. Navigating the SNCF's mobile application, for example,” said Tony Tripoul, the CGT representative for the SNCF's operations branch, to Nice-Matin.

The stations will also have ticket machines, and people will still be able to buy tickets and find out train information by using the SNCF smartphone app.

‘Wider lack of public services’?

These are not the only stations to move away from permanent counter staff.

In December, SNCF made the same decision for the stations in Montfavet, Cavaillon and L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue (Vaucluse). A year and a half earlier, permanent staff were removed from Bollène, Sorgues, and Carpentras.

Only larger stations are tending to keep permanent staff on-hand. Yet, even some larger stations are reducing staff; workers in Pau (Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Nouvelle-Aquitaine) last year protested against the decision to close manned counters over the weekends during nine months of the year.

They said that replacing workers with ticket machines was not satisfactory, as these “often break down…can’t do all tasks, don’t give change, and need a credit card” to work.

Workers’ union the CGT has denounced the change as contributing to a wider “lack of public services”, and means that people will use the trains less and less. Vulnerable people who are not comfortable with smartphone apps, it says, will take the car instead.

They also say that station workers do not just dispense tickets; they also help people with limited mobility, and contribute to train and station cleaning.

But SNCF has said that increased numbers of people are using the app to access services, and that saving money on staff will mean it has more to reinvest into new trains and infrastructure. It said that already, almost 80% of ticket sales are made online or via app.

What’s your view on this? Do you choose to use a manned counter desk to buy your tickets and, if so, why? Share your view at