A few weeks ago, the Government broke its silence and confirmed that it was supporting plans to close almost all of the 1,007 remaining railway ticket offices across the country, including the offices at Reddish North and Heaton Chapel stations. I’ve made no secret of my total opposition to this policy.
It is short-sighted, ill-conceived and will make train stations far less accessible to vulnerable and disabled passengers. Not only that, but it will also cost jobs and throw livelihoods into total disarray.
I’ve written to the Rail Delivery Group, who have opened a consultation into these proposed changes, and I’ll be fighting tooth and nail to keep the offices at Reddish North and Heaton Chapel open. Railway ticket offices are an essential part of our railways.
I know from my own experience that when you need a helping hand with routes, or if machines aren’t working, or you need to ask a question, nothing beats talking to a real human being who understands the railway and local area. My inbox has been inundated by concerned constituents following this unexpected announcement.
I’ve heard from disabled constituents who have highlighted that having a staffed, in-person ticket office allows them to check the access provision at their departure and destination stations. They rightly feel as if they have been overlooked by the Government and are worried about what this decision will mean for their ability to travel.
I’ve heard from elderly constituents who don’t know how to use automated ticket machines and are stunned that this decision has been taken with such a short period of time allocated for passenger consultation. The point has also been made to me that often, the expertise of ticket office staff results in passengers accessing cheaper fares.
No wonder some are questioning the motives of rail operators removing this additional point of contact. These stories reinforce a simple fact; that this decision has not been made in the interest of improving passenger experience, it is simply the latest example of a Government that seems intent on the managed decline of our railways.
The Government should be spending its time coming up with ways to improve our railways, to bring them back under public control and working for the people they serve. We shouldn’t be wasting energy having to fight regressive policies that will leave passengers worse off. So, I’ll continue to make this case to Government and to the Railway Delivery Group, and I hope that we see a change of heart, sooner rather than later.