Rail campaigners and MPs are celebrating after a much-criticised plan to close ticket offices was given a last-minute u-turn.
After a well-publicised consultation period where rail users were asked for their views on the plans to replace ticket offices with on-platform staff and a greater reliance on use of ticket machines, the response received was overwhelmingly in favour of retaining the status quo.
Mark Harper MP, the transport secretary, said in a statement: “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.
“We will continue our work to reform our railways with the expansion of contactless Pay As You Go ticketing, making stations more accessible through our Access for All programme and £350 million funding through our Network North plan to improve accessibility at up to 100 stations.”
While train operators can appeal the decision, it is believed this may not happen and instead the Government intends to work with railway operators to further expand the roll out of contactless pay-as-you go ticketing and improving access for disabled passengers.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said that it was a resounding victory for the union’s campaign and a win for passengers, community groups and rail workers alike.
He said: “We are now calling for an urgent summit with the government, train operating companies, disabled and community organisations and passenger groups to agree a different route for the rail network that guarantees the future of our ticket offices and stations staff jobs to delivers a safe, secure and accessible service that puts passengers before profit,”
Sheryll Murray, the MP of South East Cornwall, had previously said she did not support the plans to close railway ticket offices. Expressing delight at the announcement, she said it was welcome news from the secretary of state for transport.
Scott Mann, the MP for North Cornwall said he was very happy with the decision, saying: ““I was very happy with the decision. It was clear from the feedback I received from North Cornwall constituents that they wanted ticket offices to remain open, and I made representation on their behalf. “