The banks have gone, post offices are closing, your minor injuries unit might be shut, your library closed or desperately trying to hang in there and if you don’t have a smartphone you can’t park the car that is your lifeline because there’s no reliable bus service. Welcome to the real world of rural living, which might look all fine and dandy for a two week holiday, but for those living here, not so fab at all.
Now, with just 21 days notice, it looks like train ticket offices up and down the country are going to be closed, after a token, rushed consultation with the public – most of whom will have no idea this is happening.
Much of what follows is taken from Transport for All, who campaign for accessible public transport for everyone. Unsurprisingly, they are alarmed by the implications of closing ticket offices for those with a disability, including visual impairment and they are urging us all to object. You will find lots of helpful information and template letters and emails on their website.
You can also make use of easy-to-use widgets on the Transport Focus website HERE.
“Given the size and scale of the proposed changes, with such profound impacts on disabled people, it is staggering that disabled people and our organisations have not had the opportunity to influence this policy at a National level, and that it is instead going out to public consultation. Consultations will only be open for 21 days, and each Train Operating Company will be submitting proposals separately, meaning there will be multiple email addresses to send objections to. We therefore have created a template to assist our members and the wider community in objecting.
The more objections that are submitted, the more evidence and ammunition the passenger bodies have to push back against or outright reject the proposals, and the harder it is for the Secretary of State to overturn appeals.“Transport for All
“Currently, 1 in 8 rail tickets (12.5%) are sold over the counter at ticket offices.
Without staffed ticket offices, passengers will be forced to use alternative means to purchase tickets; either through booking online or using the Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) at the station. For some disabled people, neither of these options are accessible.
One major reason is that disabled people are disproportionately represented in the number of internet non-users. 23% of disabled adults have no access to the internet, compared to 6% of non-disabled adults. Blind and visually impaired people, as well as older people, are especially likely to be digitally excluded. Booking online therefore is not an option for many.
The alternative option is Ticket Vending Machines (TVMS). These, however, come with a host of barriers that make them inaccessible. For one, many do not accept cash. Many disabled people use cash for accessibility reasons, and often face barriers getting a bank account, particularly those who are learning disabled and those living in institutional settings. Without the option to pay in cash at staffed stations, many passengers will have no means of purchasing a ticket.
TVMs also don’t have all ticket options and discounts available. For example, the 50% wheelchair user discount can only be purchased at ticket offices. Using TVMs may therefore result in increased costs of travel for many disabled people, who already face significant financial barriers to transport. On average, a disabled person faces over £583 more monthly costs than a non-disabled person, and with living costs spiralling, disabled people cannot afford to take the hit.
This is among a host of other barriers to using TVMs: the lack of tactile information and functionality, being poorly signposted, being out of reach for wheelchair users, and the complexity of information and user experience. Disabled people must be able to purchase tickets, otherwise, the rail system simply cannot work for them.Transport for All
Please go to the website for more information on threats to access to assistance.
And it’s not just about those with disabilities.
What about other potentially vulnerable people? The elderly? Women? What happens to crime rates and vandalism? Muggings. Suicides? Sabotage of the tracks? The issue of personal safety is an intersectional issue that affects a number of groups.
“In London TravelWatch’s recent research on personal security, it was found that visible staff at stations made women and other groups of people – including disabled women/people – feel safer when travelling. Passengers, particularly women and young people, reported that in the absence of staff they wouldn’t know how to get help in the event of a crime or incident.
Staffed station ticket offices are currently guaranteed places where people can go to seek help. Without sufficient visible staff at stations, there’s a risk that particular groups of people with protected characteristics (who face a higher incidence of harassment and hate crime) will not feel safe while travelling on the rail network, and will opt to avoid travelling altogether. Given that marginalised groups already face so many barriers to moving around the world freely and safely, we should be doing everything in our power to ensure that we do not create even more difficulties.”Transport for All
And if the ticket office is shut, what about other facilities? Toilets, waiting rooms etc?
The Rail Delivery Group say that staff will be redeployed to help customers… Does anyone really believe that?
The planned closures we know about in our region are:
Please let us know about closures in Cornwall and Somerset. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Let’s support the rail union leaders’ articulate desire to keep improving the UK’s vital train services.
“Once unmanned ticket offices are introduced the operating companies will allow mission creep, aiming to greatly reduce all paid personnel.
For millions of us a train cannot feel safe without its conductor and driver, and empty platforms are terrifying for the solo traveller.”With thanks to reader Jane Annabel Eades for drawing our attention to this.