Campaign victory: plans to close ticket offices in train stations are being scrapped
Today the Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, announced that he had asked train operators to withdraw plans to close over 800 ticket offices across England and at Glasgow Central station.
This stunning U-turn from the Government demonstrates the impact our supporters have had through their widespread campaigning against the closure of rail ticket offices, and we thank everyone who got involved in our campaign.
The huge upswell of concern by blind and partially sighted people was unprecedented within the community, as was the overwhelming public opposition to the plans.
As well as taking part in the consultation itself, almost 2,000 supporters sent a letter to their MP asking them to share their concerns about this proposal with the transport minister, reaching nine out of ten MPs. At the same time hundreds of people wrote to their local newspapers to reiterate RNIB’s call to scrap the proposals.
In a parliamentary debate on this issue, MPs from across the house shared the emails our supporters wrote to them, referencing RNIB statistics and the real impact closing ticket offices would have on blind and partially sighted people.
Our regional campaigns officers worked with local blind and partially sighted campaigners to share their concerns with local media and created short videos to share on social media demonstrating the inaccessibility of ticket machines and the vital importance of a ticket office.
Erik Matthies, RNIB’s policy officer, gave countless interviews with media, including BBC’s Breakfast TV, about the impact these proposed closures would have.
Matt Stringer, RNIB Chief Executive reacting to the news just in that, said:
“We are delighted the voice of blind and partially sighted people has been heard, and the Minister has made this change. It is essential the experiences of people with sight loss are properly understood in decision-making. These closures would have left many blind and partially sighted people unable to live a full life: without a means to see family, go to their health appointments and play their part in our communities.
We welcome the Minister’s commitment in a meeting this morning to form a working group with a variety of organisations to ensure a better train travelling experience in the future, with accessible technology and infrastructure improvements at its heart.”
A fixed train ticket location and office staff available as the first point of contact for many kinds of staff assistance is essential for blind and partially sighted people to travel with confidence and independence.
Staff can make sure the correct tickets and concessions are bought, let people know if the lifts are out of use or advise on cancelled or delayed trains. This flexible, and often vital, assistance for blind and partially sighted people is not something apps or ticket machines can replicate.
RNIB thanks all our campaigners, many of whom are blind or partially sighted, for their hard work and commitment to stopping the closures. This campaign win would not have been possible without them.
Look out for further updates as we continue to work with Government and train operators to ensure accessible travel is at the heart of any plans to “modernise” train travel.