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Closing ticket offices isn’t ‘modernisation’ - it’s an attack on public transport

news 07 Jul 2023

The UK government’s reckless proposal to close over 1000 ticket offices in train stations across the country would mean untold job losses, and will make rail travel more difficult and less safe for everyone.

The move - confirmed this week - would amount to the decimation of England’s railways, and will leave everyone worse off. Everyone, that is, except the fat-cat bosses of the country’s privatised rail companies.

“The government’s rationale for the closures simply misses the point,” said David Gobe, Chair of ITF’s Railway Workers’ Section. “Whether it is anti-social behaviour, increased risk of violence and harassment, broken ticket machines, confusion caused by the UK’s kafkaesque ticket system, accessibility issues for disabled and elderly passengers, lost property, questions around delays and cancellations, or any number of other reasons, passengers have the right to go to a human being for help. Does the population really want dehumanized transport? I don't think so!

“While it is true that passengers can now take advantage of other ways to buy tickets, those who chose to use ticket offices often do so out of necessity. That necessity won’t go away when the shutters go up.”

TSSA Interim General Secretary, Peter Pendle slammed the ticket office closures and redundancies: "Ticket office staff are hugely valued by the travelling public, and we urge commuters to resist these foolish plans by sending the government a crystal-clear message that they are on the wrong track.”

“We will continue to oppose ticket office closures which make no sense when it comes to running a railway for all and building up services in the post-Covid era. 

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: "The decision to close up to 1,000 ticket offices and to issue hundreds of redundancy notices to staff is a savage attack on railway workers, their families and the travelling public.”

"Travellers will be forced to rely on apps and remote mobile teams to be available to assist them rather than having trained staff on stations. This is catastrophic for elderly, disabled and vulnerable passengers trying to access the rail network.

​​The UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) warned the government’s department Office of Road and Rail in 2019 that disabled people have the “fundamental right to spontaneous travel” on an equal basis with others. The announced ticket office closures go in the wrong direction to improving access, and are counter to the UK’s international law obligations, including as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This convention reaffirms that those with disabilities have the same rights and it recognises that disability results from environmental barriers that hinders their equal full participation in society. These closures are further decreasing vital passenger access to services.

The UK Government also ratified the ILO’s Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment in March 2022, and again the ticket office closures are directly opposed to the government’s duties to keep commuters safe on their way to work.

John Mark Mwanika, ITF Urban Transport Chair, said that the slashing jobs simply cannot and will not translate to a better service for passengers, but the UK government has shown time and time again that a better service for passengers is not a priority for them.

“If the government is remotely serious about delivering ‘value for money’ - as they claim is the reason for this butchery - then they should start by renationalising Britain’s railways, and ending the scandal of eye-watering share-holder dividends while passengers pay through the nose for an ever-worse service.”

“We stand ready to support in mobilising resistance to these unwanted cuts that will restrict passengers’ access to the best value tickets, worsen passenger service, accessibility, safety and security, putting passengers at an increased risk of violence, harassment and injury, and lead to hundreds of job losses at stations.”

We also call for international support and solidarity for our UK affiliates, please sign their petitions now:

We urge all UK residents to respond to the government’s consultation on the ticket office closures by 26 July 2023. Please specify which stations you are particularly concerned about, and why.