► Consultation responses total tops half a million
► RMT stages closures protest march in Westminster
► Train services disrupted as unions strike again
The number of responses to proposals to close more than 900 station ticket offices in England has topped half a million, as the time to react runs out.
The consultation, which was extended at the end of July, expires at midnight tonight.
The two passenger watchdogs, Transport Focus and London TravelWatch, are responsible for collating and analysing the messages they have received so that they can give formal responses in the autumn.
Rail Delivery Group chief executive Jacqueline Starr said: ‘Since the introduction of the smartphone, the numbers using ticket offices have dropped to historic lows and that trend is rapidly accelerating. For rail to survive and thrive long-term, like any responsible industry, we need to change and evolve with our customers.
‘We wanted to give as many people as possible the opportunity to have their say on the industry proposals. We are extremely grateful to everyone for taking the time to submit their views, and we will work with the passenger watchdogs to incorporate this valuable feedback into our plans.
‘The taxpayer is continuing to subsidise the railway, and we believe that now is the right time to move staff to more flexible, engaging roles so our staff can better support customers face to face with a whole range of needs, from finding the right ticket, to navigating the station and getting support with accessibility needs, while reducing costs to taxpayers.
‘We also understand that some customers have particular challenges and they should be supported in any transition. Over the coming weeks, we will work closely with passenger watchdogs to review and adapt individual proposals where necessary.’
Objections to the closure proposals have been continuing. Meanwhile, no trains are running on most lines in England today as ASLEF stages a 24-hour strike. RMT members are set to walk out for 24 hours tomorrow, while ASLEF will simultaneously ban overtime. Again, train services are expected to be limited, with no service on some routes.
The RMT staged a protest march to Parliament and Downing Street yesterday, as the deadline for responses to ticket office closures was approaching.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘We are sending a clear message to the government and profiteering rail operators that our ticket offices must not be closed.
‘The campaign to save our ticket offices has amassed widespread public support and forced an extension of the consultation.
‘However, our campaign will continue beyond the consultation deadline. We need to pressure politicians in every constituency and to highlight the critical role that ticket offices and station staff play in supporting passengers of every type to reach their destinations.
‘Closing ticket offices will lead to the widespread destaffing of stations and make the railways inaccessible to thousands of disabled, vulnerable and elderly passengers.
‘We will not quietly sit back and allow this to happen. Our members will continue their industrial campaign to save their jobs and to protect railway passengers.’