THE FIGHT to prevent the closure of Stratford railway station’s ticket office is gathering steam.
The Liberal Democrat Group on Stratford District Council is following in the tracks of The Shakespeare Line Rail User Group (SLRUG) by staunchly opposing the closure of the last remaining rail ticket office in the district.
The closure of the ticket office at Stratford station comes as part of wider-reaching plans which would see all the remaining station ticket offices closed across the country over the next three years and ticket office employees instead brought out from behind the counter to assist customers on the platform.
The closures have come about following a call from transport secretary Mark Harper for train operators, including West Midlands Railway, to cut costs.
A consultation on the reforms is taking place but the plan, if given the go-ahead, would see stations including Stratford serviced by mobile teams who would move between stations and be deployed to offer extra help where needed.
Ticket vending machines would also be upgraded to allow customers to buy the most popular tickets at stations, while station employees would have hand-held devices.
SDC’s Lib Dem group believes it is essential to maintain a ticket issuing and advice function at Stratford station and has formally lodged its objection with the Department of Transport as part of a consultation.
The group’s spokesperson Coun George Cowcher said: “Stratford is one of the UK’s most visited towns by tourists, many from overseas and some with limited English. They require advice and a personal service. Some use tickets such as overseas rail cards which are not issued electronically.
“Stratford and district has an increasingly aging population, some of whom do not have access to computer services. The station is also a frequent destination for disabled passengers, many of whom need a personal service and cannot use free standing ticket machines.
“The UK rail ticketing system is over complicated and in part chaotic. At this time, when there is a cost of living crisis, there is a vital need to ensure that customers pay the best possible price for rail tickets.”
He added there was no confidence that if the ticket office was closed that advice, ticketing issuing or assistance services would be permanently retained at the station.
The Lib Dems views closely echo those of SLRUG who spoke out earlier this month about the plans which they labelled “discriminatory” and entirely unsuitable for a tourist station like Stratford.
A spokesperson for West Midlands Railway said it needed to evolve with its customers and the proposal would mean staff being more visible and available where customers most need them on concourses and platforms.