CAMPAIGNERS against the closure of the ticket office at Stratford railway station have welcomed a government u-turn which saves it from the axe.
Transport secretary Mark Harper confirmed the climbdown on the proposal geared at cutting costs on Tuesday (October 31).
Mr Harper said the government had asked train operators to withdraw the proposals as they had not met the ‘high threshold’ of serving passengers set by ministers.
Under the plans, all regional ticket offices in their current form would have closed over the next three years, apart from several ‘hub stations’, such as Birmingham Snow Hill.
Instead, the rail firms said there would be a ‘visible and accessible staff presence’ on ticket concourses and platforms during staff hours.
The rationale for the move was that just 12 per cent of all tickets were currently sold at offices, compared to 82 per cent in the 1990s, and around half of all sales nationally were now made online.
Stratford district councillor Manuela Perteghella, who led a protest on the platform of Stratford station in September, has welcomed the news.
She told the Observer: “This is the right decision, but the closure of tickets offices should have never been proposed in the first place. Ministers and rail bosses have questions to answer.
“Ticket offices are a lifeline for vulnerable and disabled passengers, as well as visitors to our historic town, and those residents who, for many reasons, do not own smartphones, laptops or computers.
“The closures have been scrapped mainly due to the objections of hundreds of thousands of passengers and groups, including disability rights groups, and the many petitions and protests by rail users up and down the country, including the protest here in Stratford championing passengers’ rights.”
The Shakespeare Line Rail User Group (SLRUG), which represents passengers that use train services between Birmingham, Stratford and Leamington, welcomed the news.
Chair of SLRUG Peter Morris said: “These proposals were ill thought out from the start. The closure proposals took no account of the many passengers who require help with purchasing travel tickets and, indeed, those who cannot purchase travel tickets online. There were also significant issues that remained unanswered concerning passengers with accessibility needs.
“We would like to thank all those that responded and wrote in objection to these proposals; their action has shown the government has had to think again and withdraw what was a wrong-headed idea from the outset.
“Significant reforms are needed to railway travel ticketing, revenue protection and access to various services. All of these need to be examined and, significantly modernised, and resolved before any proposals can be seriously and justifiably considered that affect ticket offices.”