An autism charity says it is “delighted” the government has scrapped plans to close rail ticket offices in England.
The decisions comes after ‘overwhelming public backlash’ to the plans, resulting in the biggest response to a public consultation in British history, with more than 750,000 consultation responses.
Now, roughly a year after the plans to scrap rail ticket offices were leaked to the press, the passenger watchdog has announced they are objecting to all proposals.
Katie Pennick, Campaigns Manager at Transport for All, who led the campaign to prevent ticket offices from closing, said the result represents “the best possible outcome.”
“While we are proud of the incredible tenacity of disabled people and our community for securing this major campaign victory, the outcome is bittersweet. The disastrous and discriminatory proposals should never have been put forward.
“Though the government was eventually swayed, it is appalling that disabled people’s concerns were dismissed for so long. We can’t help but wonder what we could achieve if disabled people were listened to and accessibility was prioritised,” she said.
Rail ticket offices help passengers feel confident
Transport Focus said that while some train companies were close to meeting their criteria, there were still some serious “overall concerns” about how “potentially useful innovations” – such as ‘welcome points – would work in practice.
“We also have questions about how the impact of these changes would be measured and how future consultation on staffing levels will work,” said Anthony Smith, chief executive of the Transport Focus.
“Passengers must be confident they can get help when needed and buy the right ticket in time for the right train,” he added.
The government’s decision to scrap the proposals comes following a letter from the Transport Committee which suggested the government’s proposals went “too far too fast.”
Iain Stewart MP, Chair of the Transport Committee, said the government’s decision to scrap the proposals is “very welcome” and he is pleased that Transport Focus and London Travel Watch have identified similar concerns regarding accessibility.
“In our inquiry into accessible transport, the Committee has heard that disabled people, people with access needs and older people already feel side-lined when using public transport.
“I’m sure many will be relieved at this decision, but we know there is a long way to go and many lessons to be learnt from this,” he added.
Public transport must be ‘truly inclusive and accessible’
Tim Nicholls, Head of Influencing and Research at the National Autistic Society, said the charity is “delighted” the government has scrapped plans to close rail ticket offices, which are a “vital support service for autistic people.”
“We joined a coalition of organisations who strongly objected to the proposals, which would have had a disastrous impact on autistic people and disabled people who need extra support to use public transport.
“There’s a lot of unpredictability around public transport, such as potential cancellations or not knowing where to go or who to talk to. Trained staff who know how to help those who may need extra support when they travel can make a huge difference.
“Autistic people and disabled people represent a huge part of our society, and must be able to get out and about and travel to school and work just like everyone else. That’s why it’s vital that public transport is truly inclusive and accessible so that autistic people and disabled people are supported to be able to live the lives they want to lead,” he said.