The government has u-turned on a proposal to close hundreds of rail ticket offices in England in a money saving scheme.
The Rail Delivery Group had put forward proposals to close 974 ticket offices to cut costs after the pandemic badly hit the sector. They argued that only 12 per cent of tickets were now bought at station kiosks and that this was an easy way of saving.
While the proposal seemed to have the support of the department for transport, it proved controversial and was slammed by passenger watchdogs Transport Focus and London Travelwatch. The groups said 750,000 people shared their objection to the plan, with “passionate” concern cited over the ease of buying tickets - especially within marginalised groups.
On Tuesday, transport secretary Mark Harper said the government would no longer be following through on the Rail Delivery Group’s proposals.
“The consultation on ticket offices has now ended, with the Government making clear to the rail industry throughout the process that any resulting proposals must meet a high threshold of serving passengers,” Mr Harper said in a statement.
“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.”
Are other reforms taking place instead of ticket office closures?
Mr Harper said the government would instead look to reform the railways by expanding Contactless Pay As You Go ticketing and improve access for disabled passengers.
It means dozens of London stations will no longer see their ticket offices closed, including national rail hubs such as Waterloo, St Pancras and Euston.
Which ticket offices were due to close?
Had the purge gone ahead, the only London ticket offices to have survived would have been at Blackfriars, East Croydon, Finsbury Park, London Victoria, and Sutton.
The turnaround is now being celebrated by passenger groups who had lobbied against the plans in a campaign that the RMT union got on side with.
Natasha Winter, who campaigned in the West Midlands, told the BBC: “They're at the heart of our community… [I am] thrilled the government has listened.”
How did apps come into all this?
An MP previously raised fears that passengers are being overcharged by up to £100 by apps which are not displaying the best options for saving on journeys. Tory member Chris Loder told Parliament: “It just makes me sick. This, frankly, is a scandal.”
The Trainline told the Evening Standard that it does not hide the cheapest prices but others have raised objections to the proposals. This includes one visually impaired passenger who has told the BBC that the move would be a “grave mistake”, with the blind needing all the assistance they can get to safely make journeys.