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Fury at closure of several train stations as campaigners blast 'it's age discrimination'

NewsFury at closure of several train stations as campaigners blast 'it's age discrimination'

Ticket machine at Carnforth Station

Ticket machine at Carnforth Station (Image: Getty)

Plans to shut nearly all England’s remaining train station ticket offices are another example of age discrimination in the UK, campaigners have warned.

The Rail Delivery Group unveiled proposals earlier this month that could lead to the closure of most of the 1,000 offices, with facilities only remaining open at the busiest stations.

Campaign groups have also raised fears that elderly or vulnerable passengers who do not have a smartphone or use the internet could miss out on cheaper tickets.

A 21-day consultation was launched this morning to allow travellers to give their views. It means the total number of closures is not known.

There are 1,007 stations in England run engby train firms operating under contracts issued by the Government.

Ministers say the closures are needed to make savings after the industry was bailed out by more than £15 billion during the pandemic.

READ MORE: Train ticket offices ‘still serve a purpose’ commuters say ‘needs to be a plan’

They point out that only around 12 per cent of fares are now bought from a ticket office – down from 82 per cent in 1995 – with most opting to buy online and use a digital ticket or buy them from machines.

The Rail Delivery Group, which is the industry body, said moving ticket office staff on to station platforms and concourses would “modernise customer service”.

The proposals would also bring England into line with countries such as Sweden and Switzerland.

Sweden’s national rail operator closed the last of its ticket offices in 2021 while Switzerland’s railways also run with most ticket offices.

But Dennis Reed, director of the Silver Voices campaign group for over-60s, said the “rushed” plans are an “attack on older people”.

He warned that ticket office closures will reduce the number of staff available for advice, disability support, and value for money tickets and security concerns will mount significantly.

Mr Reed the move discriminates against those who do not use the internet and who need to make payments by cash.

Although the majority of people now book tickets on the internet, 12 per cent of all tickets sold last year were at the stations. Most of these were by older passengers.

“Politicians must not sit on the fence as traditional ticket offices are wiped off the face of the earth,” he said.

“Older people already feel isolated as technological advances leave them behind and this drastic policy will do more to confine us to our local areas.

“Visits to the family and for entertainment will become ever more challenging and dangerous. “The Government must step in and save our ticket offices, on behalf of the 12 million state pensioners in the UK. Parties which go along with this service transformation will pay a big political price”.

After a consultation, the Government will make the final decision on which offices will be axed. It is not known how quickly the first sites will close, although three years have been allotted for any closures.

Transport Secretary, Mark Harper

Transport Secretary, Mark Harper (Image: Getty)

Transport Secretary Mark Harper will have the final say on the number of closures.

According to industry figures, the Department for Transport runs 1,766 train stations in England. Of these, 43 per cent – or 759 – already operate without a ticket office.

A further 40 per cent (708) have ticket offices staffed part time, and 17 per cent (299) full time. The vast majority of these 1,007 stations, either with a part-time or full-time office, will close under the plans.

But major hubs, such as London Waterloo, will not face the axe.

Passengers will be asked to pay for journeys by tapping contactless cards on barriers, using self-service machines, or buying tickets from staff on station concourses or trains if possible.

Ticket office staff would be re-deployed on to platforms to help people use machines or assist with bookings made online.

Rail Delivery Group chief executive Jacqueline Starr defended the plans when they were announced.

She said: “The ways our customers buy tickets has changed and it’s time for the railway to change with them.”

“Our commitment is that we will always treat our staff, who are hugely valued and integral to the experience our customers have on the railway, fairly, with support and extra training to move into new more engaging roles.

“We also understand that our customers have differing needs, which is why the industry widely sought the views of accessibility and passenger groups when creating these proposals, and will continue through the consultation.”

Labour attacked the “sham consultation” and accused the government of “dodging accountability”.

Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh said: “Railroading this botched plan through in just 21 days, without consideration for staff and disabled passengers, only risks exacerbating the managed decline of the rail network.

“Ministers should stop dodging accountability, halt this sham consultation, and come clean on the damage these closures will do.”

A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: “It is vital that with or without ticket offices, major stations are staffed from the first to last trains to ensure that passengers can get assistance if they need it.

“Passengers especially those who are elderly or vulnerable will continue to need to be able to speak to staff in person, whether that’s buying tickets, help if trains are delayed or cancelled or advice about how to continue their journey.”

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