The bad news continues for disabled train passengers with the Rail Delivery group (RDG) announcing the potential closure of 1000 ticket offices across the country within the next three years.
As part of their plan to ‘modernise’ the railway, the RDG states that most transactions at ticket offices last year could have been done online or via ticket machines. They propose that on stations where ticket offices would close, staff would be moved onto platforms instead to provide a more ‘interactive’ service to passengers.
The proposals have been met by considerable opposition and concern, particularly in relation to elderly and disabled people. Among the points raised is that the RDG’s assumption that most people can buy online discriminates against those who are unfamiliar with modern technology or can’t access it, leaving people feeling they are being left behind in a society which doesn’t consider their needs.
The absence of ticket office staff also discriminates against people with a visual impairment or mobility needs, who may not be able to easily locate staff on the platform to purchase a ticket or ask for assistance, leading to increased anxieties about travelling to their destination.
Many disabled passengers have also voiced the necessity of speaking to someone. Machines can’t give advice on the cheapest ticket or the best route, which is an essential source of information and reassurance which can’t be given by a machine. In addition, machine language is not easy for some elderly or disabled people to understand.
There are also practical concerns with the reliance on machines, such as many not accepting cash, which for many disabled people is the preferred or necessary way to pay. Machines tend to break down, potentially leading to missed trains and increased stress for many disabled passengers.
There are also safety concerns for the most vulnerable people, particularly as the RDG’s proposal to move staff from offices to the platform is unregulated and may mean no staff at all. This is already the case at some stations, and with the instruction of the proposed ticket office closures, it may mean many more disabled people would find It difficult or impossible to access the railway, or at least make it a very stressful experience.
The RDG has given the public until 26 July to respond to these proposals before making a decision. If you would like to comment on how the loss of ticket offices would affect you or a loved one, you can follow the link below which gives you a template of a letter to email to your local passenger body: