Nearly 700,000 responses to consultation on station ticket office closures

More than 680,000 responses were submitted to a consultation on proposals for a widespread closure of railway station ticket offices, Transport Focus and London TravelWatch have said.

Concerns were raised by the public and “stakeholders” around the impact on accessibility, safety and security, issues with ticket machines and how stations will be staffed in future, according to the watchdogs.

Transport Focus and London TravelWatch will analyse the proposals and consultation responses before responding to train operators by the end of October.

If the watchdogs object to plans to close certain stations, the operators can refer their proposals to Transport Secretary Mark Harper for a final decision.

People take part in a protest organised by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) opposite Downing Street, London, over the proposed closure of railway station ticket offices
The plan has sparked fierce criticism (Lucy North/PA)

Operators are bidding to shut nearly all station ticket offices in England.

They are under pressure from the Government to cut costs amid the drop in revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The plan has sparked fierce criticism from opposition politicians, trade unions, disability groups and public transport organisations.

Hundreds of people gathered outside Downing Street at a demonstration organised by the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union last week.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said the number of responses showed the strength of feeling among the public against the proposals.

He said: “We hope that the watchdogs will reflect on the huge opposition to this monumental act of social vandalism and defend a universal public service which should be available to all.

“The drive to close ticket offices in the name of profits is clearly a political decision of this out-of-touch Tory Government and it must be stopped.”

Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: “I am grateful to all who have taken the time to contribute to the consultation, and their views will form a vital part of the process as we move towards our response.

“With more than half a million responses received, we’ll review them and the train company proposals to assess whether or not they will improve the quality of service for passengers according to our criteria.”

The watchdogs had previously said they will assess proposals for ticket office closures based on whether they set how passengers’ expectations will be met on issues such as being able to buy the correct ticket, receiving assistance in a “timely and reliable manner” and safety.

A spokeswoman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents operators, said: “We appreciate all the input we’ve received so far from the public and stakeholders.

“We want all our passengers to feel supported during any transition, and train companies will now work with independent passenger bodies at a local level to take on board the feedback.

“In the meantime, we will continue to engage with passengers, accessibility and safety groups to make a better and more robust railway.”