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Cambridge MP welcomes U-turn over closure of railway station ticket offices

An MP has welcomed a government U-turn over plans to close the majority of railway station ticket offices in England.

Daniel Zeichner said today (Wednesday, November 1) the decision was “yet another climbdown” from a government “out-of-touch with the public mood”.

MP Daniel Zeichner Picture: Keith Heppell
MP Daniel Zeichner Picture: Keith Heppell

“You only need to visit Cambridge Rail Station, and the hundreds like it up and down the country, to see how important ticket offices are to daily travel,” said the Labour MP for Cambridge.

On Tuesday, transport secretary Mark Harper said train operators had been asked to withdraw the proposals as they “do not meet the high thresholds set by ministers”.

This was in response to watchdogs Transport Focus and London TravelWatch announcing they opposed every single planned closure due to issues such as the impact on accessibility.

The plans were brought forward by train operators in July with support from the government, which has put pressure on the sector to cut costs.

In September, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak suggested closing ticket offices was “the right thing for the British public and British taxpayers” as “only one in 10 tickets are sold currently in ticket offices”.

No figure has been published showing how much money would have been saved with the proposals.

Mr Zeichner, who was shadow minister for transport from 2015-2017, continued: “From the beginning these proposals were part of the government’s managed decline of our railways, with no consideration for vulnerable passengers in need of assistance, or the job losses of hardworking rail staff.”

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayor Dr Nik Johnson, alongside four other metro mayors, had called on the government to reconsider their plans. He had also met with Royal National Institute for Blind People campaigners at Ely station to hear their concerns.

He said after the announcement: “This is a victory for fairness and good sense over a poorly thought out idea that punished the most vulnerable and was a bad thing for all rail travellers.

“I’ve said from the outset that staffed and accessible ticket offices are an essential, non-negotiable part of the rail system and must be treated as such.

The Labour mayor continued: “This proposal must not be allowed to creep back in the future. Stations without ticket offices could become no-go areas for many, excluding older or less mobile people who require in-person support, and denying access to those who can’t buy their tickets online.

The Government has announced a U-turn over plans to close the vast majority of railway station ticket offices in England (Lucy North/PA)
The Government has announced a U-turn over plans to close the vast majority of railway station ticket offices in England (Lucy North/PA)

“The whole idea was discriminatory and chucking it out is a victory for the customer, for the community, and even for commercial common sense.”

Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary Mick Lynch said the announcement was a “resounding victory” for the campaign against the closures.

He called for “an urgent summit with the government” to agree “a different route for the rail network that guarantees the future of our ticket offices and station staff jobs”.

Katie Pennick, campaigns manager at accessibility charity Transport for All, said: “While we are proud of the incredible tenacity of disabled people and our community for securing this major campaign victory, the outcome is bittersweet.

“The disastrous and discriminatory proposals should never have been put forward.”

Mr Harper said: “The consultation on ticket offices has now ended, with the government making clear to the rail industry throughout the process that any resulting proposals must meet a high threshold of serving passengers.

“We have engaged with accessibility groups throughout this process and listened carefully to passengers as well as my colleagues in Parliament.

“The proposals that have resulted from this process do not meet the high thresholds set by ministers, and so the government has asked train operators to withdraw their proposals.”

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