The number of people who have responded to controversial ticket office closure proposals in England has topped 460,000, according to the passenger watchdogs Transport Focus and London TravelWatch.
The consultation period was extended to 1 September at the end of July, and the proposals have triggered a determined reaction from passengers and politicians, who often argue that closing nearly all ticket offices will discriminate against people who cannot use ticket vending machines and who may not have access to smartphones or the internet. The operators have also conceded that a small number of tickets, including railcards, cannot be bought from machines.
Labour shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh has called on the government to admit that the proposals are intended to save money rather than to help passengers more effectively on station concourses and platforms.
She said: ‘This sham process is being driven every step of the way by Tory ministers. It’s time they stop dodging accountability, and come clean on the damage these closures will do. Railroading this botched plan through without consideration for passengers or staff only risks exacerbating the managed decline of the rail network.’
Meanwhile, the RMT has claimed that mass closures could cause the loss of 2,300 jobs.
London TravelWatch chief executive Michael Roberts said: ‘With more than 460,000 responses received already, it’s clear that there are strong views on the future of ticket offices. With a week still left to have your say, it’s not too late to submit a response about your local station.’
Over the coming weeks, the two watchdogs will continue to analyse carefully the proposals and consultation responses before they report their decisions on whether to support or object to the plans. They will be considering various factors, such as whether a station will continue to be staffed, accessibility, the alternative options for buying tickets and whether passengers will continue to be able to use lifts, waiting rooms and toilets, which are sometimes closed when no ticket office staff are on duty.