The prospect of remote collection lockers and click & collect points replacing London Underground ticket offices sparked a round of strikes last week, creating havoc for commuters. The second round of planned strikes was only narrowly averted this week.

Transport for London’s (TFL) proposal to close 240 underground ticket offices and replace them with automatic ticket machines will result in a proportion of job losses for station staff but present an opportunity for TFL and UK retailers alike, by:

  • Responding to the popularity of click and collect in the UK. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® Retail Survey data shows that UK shoppers are responding to retailers’ omnichannel fulfillment capabilities, readily adopting click & collect services. UK grocery stores Asda, Waitrose and Tesco are not waiting for the closure of ticket offices. They are already setting up trials for click & collect services at selected stations across the London Underground network. The click and collect service will allow shoppers to order their food online before a cut-off point during the day, for collection at their local station on their way home in the evening.
  • Linking a remote collection network to an established transport network. The pre-existing transport network, with established peaks and flows of commuter traffic, provides a map on which to build an effective network of remote collection lockers. Amazon and InPost are already in talks with TLF about converting ticket offices to collections points for packages.
  • Providing value added services to TFL commuter customers. Though controversial from the point of view of TFL staff, the proposition is a commercial opportunity for TFL. That is, provided advanced ticket machines and staff “on the ground’ really can meet the primary need of their customers – to travel safely. By working with partners it can provide value added services to its commuter customers and generate revenue. TFL is already working with small business such as Rockflower, which recently opened a flower vending kiosk at Blackfriars underground station.

In any case, it will be a little while before we see these plans come to fruition. As the strikes demonstrate, there are likely to be some bumps and blue print reviews, along the way. However, this is a significant proposition for TLF and opportunity for UK retailers’ omnichannel fulfillment capabilities. eBusiness professionals should keep an eye on the progress of pilot programs that emerge.