TRAIN users have welcomed the government u-turn on plans to close all rail station ticket offices across the country – including the one in Leamington.
Transport secretary Mark Harper confirmed the climbdown on the proposal geared at cutting costs on Tuesday (October 31).
Mr Harper said the government had asked train operators to withdraw the proposals as they had not met the ‘high threshold’ of serving passengers set by ministers.
Under the plans, all regional ticket offices in their current form would have closed over the next three years, apart from several ‘hub stations’, such as Birmingham Snow Hill.
Instead, the rail firms said there would be a ‘visible and accessible staff presence’ on ticket concourses and platforms during staff hours.
The rationale for the move was that just 12 per cent of all tickets were currently sold at offices, compared to 82 per cent in the 1990s, and around half of all sales nationally were now made online.
The Shakespeare Line Rail User Group (SLRUG), which represents passengers that use train services between Birmingham, Stratford and Leamington, welcomed the news.
SLRUG chair Peter Morris. who wrote to the Department of Transport back in July outlining his objections to the “discriminatory” plan, said: “These proposals were ill thought out from the start. The closure proposals took no account of the many passengers who require help with purchasing travel tickets and, indeed, those who cannot purchase travel tickets online. There were also significant issues that remained unanswered concerning passengers with accessibility needs.
“We would like to thank all those that responded and wrote in objection to these proposals; their action has shown the government has had to think again and withdraw what was a wrong-headed idea from the outset.
“Significant reforms are needed to railway travel ticketing, revenue protection and access to various services. All of these need to be examined and, significantly modernised, and resolved before any proposals can be seriously and justifiably considered that affect ticket offices.
“While we welcome the scrapping of these ticket office proposals, we are also mindful that it was the government that pushed the train operators into this in the first place, forcing them to incur the wrath of passengers with the government totally unprepared for the scale and voracity of the public’s reaction. The train operators have wasted thousands of pounds at the government’s behest and now have had the rug pulled from under them by the government.
“Nationally, the whole exercise has been a scandalous waste of public money and has caused considerable distress to many passengers, especially those with accessibility needs and has been an unwanted distraction to companies trying to operate train services.”