The NPC welcomes a Transport Select Committee intervention which labels plans to close almost 1,000 railway ticket offices as going ‘too far, too fast.’
In a letter to Rail Minister Huw Merriman, the Committee Chair, Iain Stewart MP says the current plans ignore the needs of the disabled and elderly, and that some passengers risk being excluded from the railways altogether.
He added that the plans ‘at present are too vague, to be properly understood’ and called for the current government consultation on the closures to ‘lead to much better proposals that will reflect the needs of all passengers.’
NPC welcomes Select Committee intervention
The cross-party government committee held an evidence session last month, as part of it’s ongoing ‘Accessible Transport: Legal Obligations’ inquiry. They wanted to hear feedback on the proposed closures, which have been roundly condemned by NPC and many other groups and organisations.
In his letter to the Minister, Mr Stewart, a Conservative MP, quoted evidence from the session which suggested “unacceptable” levels of detail from rail operators about their plans to close ticket offices and reduce staffing. The committee also criticised the lack of detailed information about how ticketing arrangements will be handled.
Cross-party MPs criticise ‘too far, too fast’ plans to close rail ticket offices
NPC General Secretary Jan Shortt commented: “The Transport Committee is rightly concerned at the level of ticket office closures, the lack of clarity, and the poor consultation process. “We hope this intervention will reflect a turning point in this campaign to halt this plan.
“Equality of access to purchasing tickets to travel at a reasonable cost is integral to those without digital means. This level of service can only be served by ticket office staff. Similarly, we know that access to travel relies upon dedicated staff in stations. It is not just about ticket offices, it is about people providing assistance when and where it is needed.”
The plans have been met with a storm of protest from NPC, disability groups, passengers, and rail unions who say the closures are simply a way of cutting staff and reducing costs. We all fear it will cause difficulty for the elderly and disabled in paying for travel and finding information. More than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling for the plan to be halted.
In his letter, Mr Stewart says, ‘At a minimum, changes this radical should be carefully piloted in limited areas and evaluated for their effect on all passengers before being rolled out. This would allow for the alternative proposals, which at present are too vague, to be properly understood. We hope and expect that the consultation will ultimately lead to much better proposals that will reflect the needs of all passengers’ and result in ‘a better service, not a diminished one.’
The letter also criticises the Transport Department and the rail industry umbrella body, the Rail Delivery Group. Train operators claim only 12 per cent of tickets are now bought from manned station ticket offices, down from 85 per cent in the 90s. They say they want to redeploy current staff to station platforms where they are still able to sell tickets but also offer better assistance to more travellers. But the select committee says 12 per cent still buying tickets from manned stations still represents millions of travellers.
Download the press release.
Download the full Transport Select Committee letter to the Rail Minister, below.