Town Council slams ticket office closure as 'discriminatory'


Wilmslow Town Council has objected to the planned closure of Wilmslow Station's ticket office.

Plans to axe up to 1,000 ticket offices across the UK, including Alderley Edge, Handforth and Wilmslow, were unveiled by the government on July 5th, having been proposed by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) - an industry body which represents private railway operators.

Wilmslow Town Council has sent the following response to the consultation, into the plans to close hundreds of ticket offices, which has been extended until 1st September.

"The Changes to Wilmslow Booking office propose its total closure. Wilmslow Town Council objects to this proposal as Wilmslow is a Class C2 important feeder station classed as a busy railhead by the Department for Transport. It is served by local, inter-urban and Inter-City trains for a variety of train operating companies.

"Wilmslow Station's booking office processes complex travel tickets for people and this service is important for visitors, new passengers and people not used to booking tickets online or by telephone. Some groups in society are known to face greater challenges using technology to book tickets online, by phone or by using ticket machines - these being disabled and older service users.

In Wilmslow, 20% of the population is over 65 and this figure is projected to increase over the next 10 years. Both age and disability are protected characteristics as defined by the Equality Act (2010), in the absence of an Equality Impact Assessment it is the view of Wilmslow Town Council that the proposed changes would disproportionately negatively impact protected groups and is therefore discriminatory.

"Wilmslow Town Council believes this face-to-face service provides a valuable service and should be retained.

"Network Rail has been considering plans to re-develop the station with enhanced facilities and enhanced interchange. Withdrawing the booking office service flies directly in the face of these plans.

"At the conclusion of the consultation, should the decision be taken to close ticket offices, Wilmslow Town Council believes that simplification and standardisation of ticketing is an essential pre-requisite. This is particularly the case for Wilmslow which is served by three different train operating companies which all have their own ticketing policies."

The recent announcement of plans to close the ticket office at Handforth station has also come as a blow to the Friends of Handforth Station (FoHS) who use the building for exhibitions of artwork, floral displays, tool storage and the supply of water and electricity.

On Saturday 12th August 2023, FoHS were joined at Handforth Station by local residents in a demonstration of community support for keeping the ticket office open (pictured above).

FOHS president, Mike Bishop (pictured left) said "The support of the local community and Handforth Town Council has been wonderful. We have received many supportive messages both as hard copy left at the station and as posts on the FoHS website. However, we need many more people to support our cause. Those wishing to show their support for keeping Handforth's ticket office open are encouraged to e-mail an objection to ticket office closure to [email protected]

"Alternatively/additionally local residents can express their support by signing a petition to keep ticket offices open."



Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Roger Bagguley
Monday 14th August 2023 at 10:34 am
Thankyou Wilmslow Town Councillors for a very good decision based upon a sound reason.
Vince Chadwick
Monday 14th August 2023 at 11:04 am
Although this ridiculous proposal is ostensibly from the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), it actually originates from the Department of Transport (DfT), who have instructed the RDG to carry it out. The RDG (representing the rail companies) are contracted by DfT and have no option but to carry out DfT's wishes.

This is an entirely political move by DfT in their current fight with the rail unions, and completely ignores the appalling impact on rail users. It is something DfT can do without having to consult those unions, including implementing the many redundancies that will follow. The DfT take us for fools if they think we'll swallow the idea this isn’t about cutting the number of staff. Statutory notices advising of jobs under threat are already being issued to staff in some companies and Northern, for example, is reported to have openly admitted staff numbers will reduce. Even if some displaced ticket clerks find themselves wandering the platforms, how will passengers know when they will be in attendance and where they will be located (ticket offices have published opening hours)?

The claim that only 12% of tickets are purchased at ticket offices is misleading, as that is an average. It includes many offices where daily ticket sales are in single figures, as well as offices such as Manchester Piccadilly, London Euston, and Birmingham New Street (all slated for closure) which sell thousands. There may be a case for closing those low-sales ticket offices, but to propose closing those at major stations is ludicrous.

A leading rail ticket retailer quotes there are 2,822 ticket types with 901 unique ticket names, 655 restriction codes and 1,288 route codes in the rail ticketing system and this complexity has only got worse since Covid as Train Operating Companies have introduced even more ticket types. Many of these are NOT available via ticket machines or even online, so the first thing DfT should be proposing is massive simplification of rail ticketing before even contemplating ticket office closure.

Here is a transport press article which explains all this and more:
Ian Ball
Monday 14th August 2023 at 7:33 pm
As part of my own response to the consultation, I've been finding out more about the Northern Railways ticketing structure. Their website says quite openly "In most cases, purchasing Northern tickets online is cheaper than at the ticket office". Little wonder then that ticket office sales are declining in popularity. It is imho outrageous for the train operators to now be using their deliberate policy of making online purchases generally cheaper, as justification for closing the ticket offices and hence also removing the ability to buy a ticket if you don't have an active bank card. It is so clearly discriminatory against the less advantaged, the vulnerable and the elderly non-techies. Let's get that situation fixed first, please!
Jonathan Follows
Tuesday 15th August 2023 at 11:45 am
Yes, as Ian Ball says, I can buy a single for £3.50 from Wilmslow to Manchester for a specific Northern train later today online, but I can't buy the same ticket from the ticket office where I'll instead be charged £7.10. Northern prevents its ticket offices from selling "advance tickets for the same day" which can otherwise be bought online.

It's just another example of the railway ticketing madness which needs to be reformed drastically before ticket offices are closed. I think most people would be reasonably happy with a contactless ticketing option which resulted in the proper and reasonable fare being charged, but that's not available today or promised for the near future.
Barry Buxton
Wednesday 23rd August 2023 at 2:24 pm
If people expect to get a bespoke ticketing service then that has to come at a higher price compared to using automated systems. Railway infrastructure costs have to come down, for the benefit of all taxpayers.
Jonathan Follows
Tuesday 31st October 2023 at 12:34 pm
The plans to close railway station ticket offices, including the one at Wilmslow station, have been withdrawn today.
Transport Focus ( received responses and decided that there were 7 reasons against closing the ticket office at Wilmslow station.
"Transport Focus acknowledges that Northern has made some improvements to its
original proposal. However, having analysed these revised proposals we have
concerns at the proposal to close ticket offices at 131 stations. Some of these are
specific to Northern and some are generic issues at an industry-wide level. However,
as a result, we must object to all proposals to close ticket offices at Northern
stations. A full list of the stations this applies to is provided at the end of this letter."
Transport Focus passed the buck to the government, which would have had to approve the closures explicitly, and wasn't prepared to do so.