TICKET office opening hours could be slashed for thousands of passengers at Tube stations across the borough, leaked plans suggest.
The proposals are ringing alarm bells with passenger groups and been attacked by the London Underground staff union, who are balloting for industrial action because it fears a job cull.
Most manned ticket windows at stations on the Central, District and Piccadilly lines will open later and shut earlier and some will also be unavailable for several hours during the quieter afternoon periods. Although Ealing Broadway is unaffected as it is run by First Great Western, not Transport for London (TfL) who are bringing in the changes.
A spokesman for the National Union of Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers (RMT) said the union was balloting its membership of more than 10,000 staff across the entire network.
He added: "We're wholly opposed to the cuts being pushed through by TfL, it is the station staff in the line of fire but it will affect the safety of everyone. We're committed to fighting this 100 per cent. If you leave stations unstaffed they will become a drug dealers' and muggers' paradise."
The cuts include reducing ticket office hours in Greenford Station, currently 6.30am - 8pm, down to 8.45am - 10.15am; in Acton Town Station, now open 5.30am - 9.30pm, to 6.15am - 7.15pm and in Northfields Station from it's present 5am - 9pm hours down to 7am - 10.30am.
John Beeston, chairman of the Ealing Passenger Transport Users' Group (EPTUG), said he welcomed the plans if it meant more staff on the platforms but not if it meant cutting jobs.
He said: "When the North London Line was taken over by London Overground they redeployed staff and crime fell by about 40 per cent in the first year. The majority of passengers pay by either Oyster card or Freedom Pass or purchase tickets in advance so the demand for those purchased at the office after the morning rush dies away substantially. But if this is a cost-cutting measure and not redeployment of resources then I feel EPTUG would be opposed."
In a statement London TravelWatch added: "We want assurances that there will always be staff on hand to help passengers, as well as to re-assure them. We expect to be holding a public meeting about this in the next couple of months."
A TfL spokeswoman said: "All our stations will be staffed throughout the day from first train to last to help and reassure passengers, and all stations with ticket offices will continue to have one, with opening hours that meet customer demand.
"Our proposal will deliver the high standards of safety and customer service that passengers expect, while also delivering greater value for money as all public services must do. We are consulting and we urge the trade unions to engage responsibly in that consultation. We are committed to no compulsory redundancies."