A local rail user group that represents passengers and visitors that use train services between Birmingham and Stratford upon Avon and Leamington Spa and Stratford upon Avon welcomed the announcement made earlier today by Mark Harper, Secretary of State for Transport, that the recent proposals to close ticket offices at most of the UK’s railway stations have been scrapped.
Peter Morris, Chair of the Shakespeare Line Rail User Group, says, “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.”
The consultation that was held into the plans by train companies to close ticket offices at all but a handful of UK stations attracted over 750,000 responses from individuals and organisations such as SLRUG. The responses were managed on behalf of the industry by Transport Focus, who have said that the responses included ‘powerful and passionate concerns.’
Peter Morris says, “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.
SLRUG would also like to thank Elizabeth Dixon of Accessible Stratford, who spoke up on behalf of many people with accessibility needs and upon whom these proposals could have had a devastating effect.”
However, thanks and praise are not universal; SLRUG has criticised the absence of support and involvement by Stratford’s Member of Parliament, Nadhim Zahawi, concerning the consultation and the future of Stratford upon Avon Railway Station’s ticket office.
Peter Morris added:
“We are very disappointed with the lack of interest and support for those people, many of whom are Mr Zahawi’s constituents, who objected to the ticket office closure plans. Where was the MP representing their views?”
“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.”
The announcement effectively means that station ticket offices at Stratford upon Avon, Shirley, Yardley Wood, Hall Green, Spring Road, Tyseley, Birmingham Moor Street, Birmingham Snow Hill, Warwick Parkway, Warwick, Leamington Spa and Birmingham New Street, that were all subject to the closure plans, will now remain open.