Plan to close ticket offices scrapped

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Controversial plans to axe up to 1,000 ticket offices across the UK, including Alderley Edge, Handforth and Wilmslow have been scrapped.

The plans 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 - in order to reduce costs following a drop in passenger numbers since Covid.

Speaking at the time of the announcement, Jacqueline Starr, Rail Delivery Group chief executive, said "The ways our customers buy tickets has changed and it's time for the railway to change with them.

"With just 12% of tickets being sold from ticket offices last year, and 99% of those transactions being available on TVMs or online, our proposals would mean more staff on hand on to give face to face help with a much wider range of support, from journey planning, to finding the right ticket and helping those with accessibility needs."

The government had initially backed the proposal but today they taken a U-turn and asked train operators to withdraw their proposals which were met with a huge backlash.

The government received 750,000 responses to the public consultation - with many raising concerns about the impact on vulnerable, elderly and disabled passengers.

The Friends of Handforth Station (FoHS) are amongst those who are delighted that the government has asked train operators to withdraw their proposals to close ticket offices in stations throughout England.

Hugh Everett, the Secretary of FoHS, said "For many reasons, this would have been a huge step backwards for Handforth: we only have one ticket machine at the moment, it often isn't working, it can only be accessed via a step, it does not accept cash, many in our community cannot use such machines. Also, for many people speaking with a friendly person - and other people they happen to meet - in a ticket office is a huge social benefit."

He added "The original proposals were accompanied by huge reductions in staffing hours, which would have been a major blow to the confidence of those wanting to use our station."

Jenny Barnes, the Chair of FoHS, said "While our initial reaction is relief, and satisfaction that our campaigning contributed towards the country-wide backlash against the proposals, we know that the rail industry still has a directive to cut costs. We'll continue to watch for further announcements, and we'll continue to campaign to make sure that the services at Handforth Station are improved and not made worse."

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Comments

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

Jonathan Follows
Tuesday 31st October 2023 at 12:44 pm
Transport Focus (https://d3cez36w5wymxj.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/30163024/Northerns-proposed-changes-to-ticket-offices-Transport-Focus-response.pdf) received 60,339 objections to the proposals to close ticket offices in 131 stations run by Northern, including Wilmslow and including my objection, and concluded that it objected to all the proposals. The buck was therefore passed back to government which decided that it couldn't be seen to make the closure decisions.
Vince Chadwick
Wednesday 1st November 2023 at 8:15 am
This is great news, but it was never a Rail Delivery Group idea. It was a Department for Transport initiative, to be actioned by the RDG whose constituent rail companies, being under management contract to DfT, had no choice but to carry it out.

Since Covid, the rail companies are no longer responsible for service initiatives or revenue enhancement. They are merely retained by DfT on management contracts to carry out DfT's bidding. DfT micro-manage the railway in every way, including dictating what trains will run and which won't, as well as specifying those trains including the hard seats, lack of luggage space, deletion of on-train WiFi, and curtailing of on-board catering. Train operating companies cannot blow their noses without DfT telling them when and how.

For those calling for the return of BR... Well, we now have a state-run railway again in all but name, and few would disagree that it's never been worse than it is right now.

DfT's ludicrous plan to close almost all booking offices has failed in the face of overwhelming opposition, and also because it was practically unworkable. But beware - they will be looking for other ways to cost-cut on the railway, making train travel even worse and less reliable than it now is. They don't seem to mind driving people off trains and back into their cars. It confirms the government's lip service to carbon reduction.
Nik Eastwood
Wednesday 1st November 2023 at 3:32 pm
Finally! a bit of sense!
Its not often I get a train but when I have I have found it a minefield to try and get tickets online, by buying my ticket at the station and speaking to a real person it was sorted in about 1 minute with complete certainty that I had bought the right ticket to go to the right place.
Jon Kelly
Thursday 2nd November 2023 at 2:00 pm
The Booking office fiasco is only the latest bit of shambles from the Conservatives in Government. Believe it or not , they prompted the train operating companies to propose widescale closures of booking office openings because it would have resulted in huge savings for ....the government.
In the face of overwhelming the opposition they now have withdrawn the whole daft idea saying the Train companies proposals "didn't meet right standards" which has left the train companies seething seeing as it was the Government's idea in the first place.
The problem left to sort out still however is with only 20% of tickets being face to face , what and how do we provide this service across the network at which stations and over what hours.
A start would be to reduce the amazingly complicated and bewildering range of tickets. .

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