Page last updated at 08:01 GMT, Thursday, 7 May 2009 09:01 UK

Station ticket checks spark row

Sheffield Railway Station
Residents fear the ticket barrier plans will cut them off from the city

Council leaders in Sheffield have hit out at a train company for causing chaos at the city's railway station by introducing "human ticket barriers".

On Wednesday commuters faced delays when staff were posted at exits to check tickets and access was blocked to a footbridge out of the station.

East Midlands Trains said it introduced the measures because of delays to its plans for automatic ticket barriers.

A city council spokesman said it had been give no notice of the new checks.

The row is the latest twist in a long-running dispute over plans by East Midlands Trains to introduce ticket barriers to cut down on fare-dodging and increase security at the station.

'Utterly disgraceful'

Opposition to the plan has focused on the company's intention to close the footbridge which links homes behind the station to the city centre.

City council leader Paul Scriven said Wednesday's ticket-checking by staff came without any warning.

He said: "This is utterly disgraceful and East Midlands Trains should be ashamed of how they have conducted themselves in this matter.

"It is a dispute that they clearly think they cannot win so have found another way, by using real people to act as barriers, until they can put their plans in place.

"By doing this they have effectively cut our city in half."

He said the council was told of the plans in a letter from East Midlands Trains received on Wednesday morning.

In the letter, the train company said: "Our business plans assumed the gates would be installed from spring this year, and consequently without the gates we need to find another way to fill the gap.

"For that reason, and with regret, from this morning we have therefore started to conduct a rolling programme of revenue protection checks at each end of the station, using our staff."

The company said automatic ticket gates were the most effective way of preventing fare dodging, "something that is critical to our business during the current economic downturn".

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