Rail station ticket offices to remain open following industry U-turn

Following yesterday’s news (October 31) that the planned widespread closure of railway station ticket offices in England has been shelved, campaigners are celebrating that two local train station ticket offices will now stay open.

Tunbridge Wells Station and High Brooms Station’s ticket offices will remain open to the public, as it was announced on October 31 that plans to close most station ticket offices in England, brought forward by train operators following pressure from the Government to save money, had been abandoned.

Greg Clark MP, who has campaigned to keep ticket offices open, told the Times: “I am delighted by this decision – which is the right one for passengers. I met personally with both the Secretary of State for Transport and the Rail Minister to make clear my view that the train operating companies should not be allowed to close ticket offices in Tunbridge Wells, High Brooms and Paddock Wood.”

He added: “These ticket offices are important for people who have more complex journeys to discuss with an experienced member of staff and for those who may struggle to buy tickets online or with ticket vending machines.

“There are now further steps that I want Southeastern to take including bringing in Pay As You Go to our local stations so that – like in London – you can tap in and out with a credit or debit card without needing to buy a ticket.”

The much-criticised plans to close railway ticket offices would have made it far more difficult for disabled people to travel.

Anne Musker, Chair of Tunbridge Wells & Area Access Group told the Times she is ‘overjoyed’ at the announcement.

She said: “We are overjoyed at the news that plans to close the ticket offices have been scrapped, and the recognition that disabled people would be less able to travel. At a time of high job vacancies, it was clearly ridiculous to make it harder for disabled people to get out and about. Many thanks to all the residents in the area, and to Greg Clark, for supporting this campaign.”

The public were overwhelmingly against the proposal of closing ticket offices.

In a survey conducted by watchdogs London TravelWatch and Transport Focus, 99 per cent of respondents opposed the plan.

Rob Mansfield, Chair of Tonbridge Line Commuters, a group who campaign for better rail services, is ‘delighted’ the Government has ‘seen sense and stopped these harmful cuts’.

He said: “They were an ill-thought-out veil for staff cuts and risked leaving passengers stranded or ripped off. Our fare system is too complicated and is well overdue a radical simplification. The ticket office staff are well versed in the system and can help save money, provide information and assistance.

“Staff numbers have already been cut back and we see this at High Brooms, that is all too often abandoned. The ticket machine was vandalised but there seems to be no urgency to repair it. We are increasingly seeing anti-social behaviour at stations, and it seems unlikely that having fewer staff will help this.

“It is time that the Government stopped using the railway as a political football and looks beyond their direct money in and direct money out spreadsheets to realise the indirect benefits that the railway brings. The railway offers us economic and social mobility and is much more environmentally friendly than using a car.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the Government has asked the train operators representative body, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) to withdraw their proposals, which were brought forward due to pressure from ministers. This is in response to watchdogs Transport Focus and London TravelWatch announcing they opposed every single planned closure due to issues such as the impact on accessibility.

Mr Harper said: “We have engaged with accessibility groups throughout this process and listened carefully to passengers as well as my colleagues in Parliament.

“The proposals that have resulted from this process do not meet the high thresholds set by ministers, and so the Government has asked train operators to withdraw their proposals.”

A train operator source told the media: “There is quiet fury in the rail industry about where we’ve got to. The plan was signed off by civil servants and ministers. They’ve U-turned.”

In September, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak suggested closing ticket offices was ‘the right thing for the British public and British taxpayers’ as ‘only one in 10 tickets are sold currently in ticket offices’.

Share this article

Recommended articles


Please enter a search term below.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter