The Transport Committee has criticised the proposed rail ticket office closures as going “too far, too fast”, and says the plans risk excluding some passengers.
The Committee is now calling for the changes to be “carefully piloted” and evaluated in limited areas before the scheme is rolled out across the country.
This would allow for the alternative proposals, the Committee says, which at present are “too vague to be properly understood.”
Closing rail ticket offices fails to ‘safeguard the needs of disabled passengers’
In July, train operators announced they were aiming to close all ticket offices (roughly 1,000) bar those at the busiest stations.
The plans caused public outcry, with disability charities saying the plans would deter thousands of disabled people from travelling by rail.
The charity Transport for All said ticket office closures would make stations and their services “inaccessible for disabled passengers”, and many would be unable to buy tickets, receive assistance, access site facilities, navigate the station, plan routes, and feel confident in making journeys.
This week, the Transport Committee wrote to the Rail Minister, Huw Merriman, outlining their concerns about the proposals.
In the letter, the Committee said there were issues around both the consultation process for the ticket office changes and the proposals themselves, in terms of “what they will mean for disabled people” travelling by train.
The Committee said it understands that the overall rationale for these changes is based on the behaviour of the majority of passengers, and that it is reasonable, to an extent, that operators should adapt to changes in how passengers interact with ticket retail.
However, the Committee says it is ‘not a sufficient approach’ to safeguarding the needs of disabled passengers.
Disabled people take 38% fewer trips than nondisabled people
The Transport Committee is now conducting an inquiry into accessible transport, which will explore the legislation and regulations that govern transport accessibility and asking why, given these existing rules, operators and regulators continue to fail disabled people.
The cross-party Committee will hear from experts in disability law and transport rights, who will be asked to give their own thoughts on the reasons for accessibility failures.
Part two of the inquiry heard from witnesses including Doug Paulley, Accessible transport campaigner; Professor Anna Lawson, Professor of Law at the University of Leeds; Stephen Brookes MBE, Rail Policy Advisor at Disability Rights UK; Catherine Casserley, Barrister at Cloisters Chambers and Caroline Stickland, Chief Executive Officer of Transport for All.
During the inquiry, Mr Palley said the legislation is outdated and forward-thinking legislation is now needed to make transport more accessible.
While Ms Stickland said disabled people take 38% fewer trips than non-disabled people, and the legislation should be working to “remove barriers” for disabled people, but instead, the law is becoming a barrier “in and of itself”.