Last week the NPC went to Downing Street with the National Federation of the Blind UK to hand in a petition signed by over other 150 supporting organisations and a letter addressed to the Prime Minister about the impact of the proposals for trains, station and ticket offices from NPC General Secretary Jan Shortt.
Dear Prime Minister,
Re: National Federation of the Blind UK Petition
The National Pensioners Convention supports the petition that is being delivered to Downing Street on 20 February 2023.
The current proposals for change are, we believe unnecessary and dangerous. They are not in the interests of passengers or the staff who work on trains, stations and ticket offices. In our view, the loss of services so far has left passengers without the means to travel when they wish but has not shown any reduction in ticket prices.
The NFBUK petition calls for:
1. All ticket offices to remain open. This is a vital service to those who are unable to purchase tickets online or use ticket machines situated in stations. Staff in ticket offices not only work with customers to get the best from their travel arrangements, but give sound advice on connections, easier and cheaper ways to travel and are good advocates for rail travel.
Without ticket offices, older people, disabled people, those with invisible disabilities, and those without access to technology, are unable to access the very first starting point to their journey – a ticket. Others are excluded by the very fact that other ticket offices are located at a distance, they have no transport to get there and are therefore unable to travel.
The idea that paper tickets can be done away with is something the NPC is very concerned about. That tells us that if you can actually buy a ticket, that ticket will no doubt have to be downloaded onto an App on a mobile phone. Most older people do not have mobile phones. Those that do may well not have a smart phone to which they can download their ticket. So, how do they travel?
2. A safe level of staffing on all stations at all times. This is crucial to those who need assistance to travel. It is also important that staff are available to help passengers with information should there be a problem with their train or other issues in the station. In some cases, the ‘Help’ function is not efficient or effective and can leave passengers worried and stressed. Robotic functions are all well and good, but nothing replaces being able to speak to a person on the station.
This means that those stations without staff because of previous cuts must have those staff replaced and there must be a safe level of staffing.
3. All trains to have guards (also known as train managers or conductors) at all times. Having been able to get on a train with assistance from a member of staff on the station, the journey must also be made safe. None of us know what the day holds when we board a train. Someone may become ill; there may be passengers making the journey unpleasant for others; a disabled or older person travelling may need assistance.
Driver only trains do not mean that the train and the journey it is taking is safe. Guards provide services to passengers so that they can travel with confidence. Those with disabilities and those needing assistance know where to find it.
The starting point for any consultation should be from the customer base. Those consultations already done have not considered the passenger experience – it is always about cutting costs and increasing profits for private providers of rail travel.
We do need a modern railway system – it is long overdue – but not at the expense of those who do not naturally fit into the way the Ministry of Transport think is best for us.
The NPC urges you to ensure that your Minister of Transport undertakes an open and transparent consultation under the Equalities Act 2010. Not to do this will ensure that the government discriminates against sections of society with protected characteristics who are excluded from the process of booking, travelling and enjoying safe experiences on trains.
Download the NPC letter
Download the NFBUK letter
Watch the petition hand-in