Rail unions welcome resounding victory against ticket office closures

Plans to close hundreds of rail ticket offices in England have been scrapped.

31 Oct 2023| News

Plans to close railway station ticket offices in England have been scrapped, in a government U-turn. The move follows a huge public backlash to the cost-cutting proposals and a sustained, cross-union campaign to halt the closures.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the government had asked train operators to withdraw their proposals because they failed to meet high passenger standards. However, rail bosses were said to be “furious”, saying the original plans had been approved by the Department for Transport.

Rail union RMT welcomed the government’s complete withdrawal of its ticket office closure plans in light of passenger watchdog objections as a complete victory.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said that it was a resounding victory for the union’s campaign and a win for passengers, community groups and rail workers alike.

“We are now calling for an urgent summit with the government, train operating companies, disabled and community organisations and passenger groups to agree a different route for the rail network that guarantees the future of our ticket offices and stations staff jobs to delivers a safe, secure and accessible service that puts passengers before profit.”

Earlier in the day, RMT had called for the entire ticket office closure programme to be abandoned following reports that passenger watchdogs have objected to ticket office closures.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch called for an urgent summit with the government, Train Companies and Passenger Watchdogs to agree a different route that keeps ticket offices open and delivers a safe, secure and accessible service that puts passengers before profit.

“A stitch up behind closed doors which still paves the way for ticket office closures and the axing of railway station staff jobs would be a betrayal of the hundreds of thousands of passengers who have objected these savage cuts as part of RMT’s campaign.”

Passenger watchdogs Transport Focus and London Travelwatch objected to the proposals, saying they had received 750,000 responses from individuals and organisations in a public consultation. These included “powerful and passionate concerns” about the potential changes, they said. The watchdogs said they had secured significant changes, including getting companies to revert to existing times for when staff would be available at many stations.

However, serious concerns remained, including ticket machine capability, accessibility and how passenger assistance and information would be delivered in the future.

Campaigners for people with disabilities welcomed the news but said more should be done. Louise Rubin, the head of policy and campaigns at Scope, said:

“This is a victory for the hundreds of thousands of disabled people who called out the absurdity of closing ticket offices. Government must now create long-overdue changes so that every disabled person can use our transport system with confidence.”

TSSA General Secretary, Maryam Eslamdoust, said:

“Our union has fought tooth and nail for many months to stop what would have been a catastrophe for our railways. We are delighted that the government has admitted defeat and scrapped these wrongheaded plans. It shows the power of our union and of the great British public in making sure these planned closures have now reached the end of the line.”

A spokesperson for train drivers’ union Aslef said:

‘Thanks to everyone who campaigned to #SaveOurTicketOffices against these unachievable and unnecessary proposals by the Government. We will not accept the managed decline of our railway.”