Disability activists are calling on the public to write to their local Train Operating Company and object to proposals which plan to shut down most railway ticket offices.
The calls come following an announcement by Rail Delivery Group (RDG) which confirmed the government’s plans to shut down almost all of the 1,007 remaining offices over the next three years.
The only ticket offices which will remain open are those at the busiest stations, including those operated by the Elizabeth Line, London Overground, Merseyrail, North Yorkshire Moors Railway Company, Transport for Wales, Transport for London, Transport for Greater Manchester and Transport Scotland. All remaining ticket offices are due to be closed.
12% of tickets are sold from ticket offices, argues Rail Delivery Group
The move is part of a scheme which aims to cut costs. The RDG argues that only 12% of tickets are now sold from ticket offices, and 99% of these transactions are available from ticket vending machines or online.
However, disabled people are more likely to rely on ticket offices to make rail purchases compared to the general population, and campaigners argue closing the majority of offices will exclude disabled people from public transport.
This is partly because 23% of disabled people are internet non-users so cannot book online, and ticket vending machines are often inaccessible for disabled people.
Closing ticket offices will also make it harder to disabled people to access support, as they act as a service point for people to get assistance.
There is therefore widespread concern that disabled people will travel less if ticket offices close across the country, a worrying prospect when people with disabilities already make 30% fewer trips than non-disabled people.
Rail Delivery Group says proposals will not affect passengers’ ability to receive assistance
The RDG insists that these reforms “will not affect train companies’ ability to provide assistance to those needing wheelchair and mobility support from staff, either on demand at the station or by booking in advance.”
They Group says new mobile assistance teams will be created to offer extra help where needed, including for stations which are currently unstaffed.
But in an interview with ITV News, campaigner Katie Penick said she is not only worried about disabled passenger’s ability to travel, but also their safety.
“Ticket offices are not just about buying tickets,” she said. “They are the first point of contact for disabled people arriving at a station who may need assistance.”
“It is incomprehensible why government and train operating companies want to do this at a time when disabled people are facing so many barriers in all other aspects of life,” she added.
The campaign group has created a template to assist their members and the wider public to object to the measures. They say the more objections that are submitted, the harder it will be for the government to overturn appeals.
“Disabled people must have our voices heard. Nothing about us without us,” they say.