Pensioners attack 'completely mad' plans to shut railway station ticket offices

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Nearly 1,000 station ticket offices could be closed (Image: Maureen McLean/REX/Shutterstock)
Nearly 1,000 station ticket offices could be closed (Image: Maureen McLean/REX/Shutterstock)

OAPs tonight step-up their fight against “completely mad” plans to close hundreds of railway station ticket offices.

Transport bosses want to axe nearly 1,000 ticket counters across the network claiming they are no longer needed because most passengers buy online, via smartphone apps or at station machines. Campaigners say the move will discriminate against the elderly, who are less likely to book over the internet or using apps - meaning they will be forced off trains and more likely to be confined to their homes,

Writing exclusively for the Mirror, National Pensioners’ Convention general secretary Jan Shortt says: “This is not about being a Luddite, it is purely the right to travel and access tickets in the manner best suited to an individual.” Stressing that “for older and disabled people, having staff in the ticket office is an absolute necessity”, she adds: “The proposal to close nearly every ticket office in the country is complete madness and takes no account of the various needs of passengers using the rail franchises.”

Pensioners attack 'completely mad' plans to shut railway station ticket offices rriddqixxiqezinvNational Pensioners’ Convention general secretary Jan Shortt

Rail chiefs hope to cut costs by closing ticket counters at 974 stations. They say staff will be switched to concourses and platforms - making them more accessible to passengers. The scheme to slash the number of ticket counters came after Transport Secretary Mark Harper urged operators to rein in spending following the coronavirus pandemic, when passengers deserted the railway.

Dennis Reed, director of the over-50s campaign group Silver Voices, said it “holds the Government directly responsible for the draconian proposal to close almost all ticket offices in England because the Conservatives have given the green light to the rail operators to rush this through over the holiday season”.

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He added: “These proposals are clearly discriminatory against older people and those with disabilities as it is predominantly these groups who will be unable to buy tickets digitally and who require physical help at the stations. Thousands more senior citizens will be cut off from modern society and isolated in their own homes.”

Pensioners attack 'completely mad' plans to shut railway station ticket officesDennis Reed, director of the over-50s campaign group Silver Voices (Collect Unknown)

The Mirror, campaigners and unions are fighting the move and a consultation on the proposals has been extended until the end of this month. But Mr Reed said: “We take no comfort from the decision to extend the consultation timetable until September 1 as it is likely to be a ruse to fend off any legal action rather than a rethink.”

Rail Delivery Group chief executive Jacqueline Starr has defended the proposals, saying they are designed to get station officials out from behind counters and more available to passengers on platforms. She said: “While local plans vary, the aim of the proposals is to bring staff out from behind ticket office windows to offer more help for customers buying tickets and navigating stations."

National Pensioners’ Convention general secretary Jan Shortt writes exclusively for the Mirror

Accessible, affordable transport is a must for people as well as improving the environment for the planet.

The proposal to close nearly every ticket office in the country is complete madness and takes no account of the various needs of passengers using the rail franchises.

Not every disability is visible and not everyone has a smartphone or is able to afford the data for the apps to book online.

Over one million people have left their broadband contracts and are therefore isolated from online booking facilities.

For older and disabled people, having staff in the ticket office is an absolute necessity.

Ticket machines do not have the full range of tickets to purchase, don’t take cash and are not always a good deal on price.

The knowledge and experience of ticket office staff is enormous and they can find the best and cheapest route to your destination.

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But staff in ticket offices don’t just sell tickets – they are a mine of information, a safe place to go if you are uncomfortable with something on the station, hold a plethora of leaflets, tourist information, and a variety of discount travel cards can be purchased over the counter.

Ticket office sales equate to 180 million journeys, so we fail to see how the proposals will improve customer service.

The drive for everyone to be online, have a smartphone, the use of AI discriminates against those offline.

This is not about being a Luddite, it is purely the right to travel and access tickets in the manner best suited to an individual.

The NPC will continue to campaign against closures that have a detrimental impact on those who need face to face services.

None of the 'reforms' have resulted in improvements for passengers and this latest proposal is the final nail in the coffin.

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Ben Glaze

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