I have responded to the consultation into the closure of rail ticket offices.
I am against the proposals and I am pleased the consultation response has been extended to the 1st September.
You can read my response to the consultation below.
Mohammad Yasin MP
Proposed Closure of Rail Ticket Offices in England
I am writing to you, my local Train Operating Company, in regard to the proposed closure of almost 1,000 rail ticket offices in England, including ticket offices in my own constituency of Bedford which will affect over 150 million passenger journeys a year.
Despite ticket offices at Bedford being under threat of complete closure, basic questions on the impact on disabled passengers, the elderly, and the roll-out of technology in stations have been left unanswered.
Now that the plans to close the vast majority of rail ticket offices in England have been officially confirmed, and consultations have begun, I am writing to again express my deep concerns around the process.
As a frequent rail user of your service and a serving member of Parliament I am acutely aware of how many passengers use the ticket office. Many pensioners and people with disabilities rely on help from ticket office staff to travel independently. The idea that we could have a member roaming the platform looking out for this troubles me. Everyone knows the ticket office is the focus point on any rail station. Although increasing numbers of people are buying digital tickets, many do not and many don’t have the access to digital devices to do so.
My constituents have seen rail fares increasing year on year while services are reduced. the ticketing process is still too complicated and many people rely on the ability to query in person whether they are getting the best or correct fare.
Other concerns include:
- The Length of the Consultation Period
I am pleased to see that the length of the consultation period on such a consequential change to our rail networks has been extended beyond the original 21 days until the 1 September 2023.
Given the huge scale of public concern around this issue in my constituency, my constituents do not want a rubber stamp consultation for decisions that have already been made. They want their views to be heard and properly considered and running a consultation over the summer holiday period is far from ideal. While I am relieved the extension to the consultation period has been granted it should be extended until mid-September to give a fairer response time that clears the holiday period.
- The Impact on Accessibility
I also have serious concerns about the impact on accessibility of the rail network.
My disabled and elderly constituents already face numerous barriers to use of our rail network and that appears set to worsen under these proposals.
23% of disabled adults and 6% of non-disabled adults are unable to use the internet. Wheelchair user discounts can only be purchased at ticket offices, and only 3% of blind people are able to use ticket vending machine without problems.
What guarantees will you offer elderly and disabled rail users in my constituency that they will not be disadvantaged by these proposals? And have you conducted a publicly available Equality Impact Assessment around these proposals?
- Impact on Job Security
I am also deeply concerned about the job security of staff in stations in my constituency.
Recently, speaking in the House of Commons, your rail minister said the following in response to an Urgent Question on rail ticket office closures from the Shadow Secretary of State for Transport:
“She does talk about job losses though, Mr Speaker. And in the event that there are some that don’t wish to make that transition, then of course the train operators will need to look to that.”
These comments confirm that these proposals are merely a prelude to job losses in rail stations. I urge train operators to provide a guarantee to rail workers in my constituency that their future job security will be protected following these consultations.
- Slow Rollout of Digital Ticketing Technology
I am concerned that you are simply not doing enough to ensure that easy-to-use digital alternatives are available in time for the closure of these offices, which may be as soon as the busy Christmas period.
How will passengers across your rail network be able to smoothly transition away from physical ticket offices when 83% of stations in England do not have contactless ticketing technology enabled?
Train operators must confirm what you will be doing to accelerate the shift towards accessible, easy-to-use digital technologies across the local rail network.
- Rail Staff
It is clear that there are far too many outstanding questions as to how these proposals can be implemented without serious consequences for accessibility of our rail network and job security of staff.
I am concerned that ticket office closures will lead to the wholescale de-staffing of stations, including safety critical train dispatch, safety critical train despatch staff, passenger assistance and other non-ticket office customer service workers.
Ticket office closures under Schedule 17 means there will be no regulations on staffing levels at stations whatsoever. I am concerned that train operators will then be free to staff or de-staff any station to whatever level they decide, with little regard to the impact on staff or customers.
I am therefore asking if you will use your position to urge Ministers to halt this sham consultation and come clean on the damage these closures will do. The alternative, railroading this botched plan through during the summer holiday period without consideration for staff and disabled passengers, only risks exacerbating the managed decline of the rail network.
I hope rail companies carefully consider the serious opposition to these proposals and put passengers before profit.