Disability campaigners call for more ticket office consultations

FLYING THE FLAG: Tunbridge Wells & Area Access protesters at Tunbridge Wells Station

DISABILITY campaigners opposed to cost-saving proposals on the railways are keeping up the pressure after rail bosses extended their consultation.

Train operators in England opened a consultation in July, considering plans to close most ticket offices and redeploy staff to assistance roles in stations, while investing in apps and online ticketing.

The consultation was due to run until July 26, but the deadline has been extended until September 1.

Although Southeastern decided to consult its largest ticket offices, and those closer to London, first – before consulting other Kent and Sussex stations – accessibility campaigners have already engaged with the survey, highlighting fears that staff numbers will be slashed.

Ticket offices are an essential help point, said Anne Musker, Chair of Tunbridge Wells & Area Access Group, whose members emonstrated at Tunbridge Wells station last Saturday (July 29), asking passers-by to answer the consultation straight away.

Their action coincided with an RMT union strike, although the Access Group is non-political.

She stressed that ticket offices provided more than just paper tickets – the sales of which have been falling.

Those with other mobility issues struggle to queue and to physically track down station staff, while wheelchair users find it “tricky” to get close to ticket machines, she explained.

Meanwhile, she said, visually impaired passengers find ticket machines hard to use, and may not be able to spot a staff member to request help, while guide dogs have all been trained to escort users to ticket offices.

“The growing number of hearing-impaired people will not have the ticket office microphone and hearing loop to hear and be heard,” she added.

Rail users can find the consultation at: londontravelwatch.org.uk or send their comments to: Southeastern.Consultation@Londontravelwatch.org.uk

Southeastern Rail’s formal consultation about stations including Tunbridge Wells, High Brooms and Paddock Wood will open this autumn.

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