TAMESIDE’S three MPs have reacted with delight after a ‘mad,’ ‘unfair’ and ‘shambolic’ proposal to close railway ticket offices was dropped.
A public outcry over the Rail Delivery Group’s plan to shut almost all of the nation’s 1,007 outlets in an effort to reduce costs has caused a U-turn.
The Correspondent told how a recently built one at Hattersley station, which cost £500,000, would have been affected had it gone ahead.
Now Angles Rayner, Andrew Gwynne and Jonathan Reynolds have told of their happiness they will stay open.
Mr Gwynne, whose constituency takes in Audenshaw’s Guide Bridge, said: “The decision to keep ticket offices open really is the right one, and I am glad the Government has chosen to do the right thing.
“This will make such a difference to passengers all over the area. I really am delighted.
“Sometimes it feels like some unfair proposals like these are fait accompli, and in this case I really was not sure the Government would back down.
“But we have shown it can be done, and I pay tribute to all the campaigners, locally and nationally who have made our voice heard.”
Mr Reynolds attended the opening of the Hattersley facility and believes the RDG has brought nothing but stress.
He said: “Dropping the mad Tory plan to scrap ticket offices is great news for everyone, especially vulnerable passengers and ticket office workers.
“Thank you to all the rail customers who made your voices heard. This whole debacle has been a stressful waste of time and taxpayers’ money.”
And Ms Rayner, who would have seen the ticket office in Ashton-under-Lyne close, added: “The Tories’ shambolic plans have fallen apart and they have finally admitted their damaging proposals put accessibility and jobs at risk.
“What an utterly colossal waste of time and taxpayers’ money, and another example of how this broken government’s time is up.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in September that closing ticket offices was, ‘the right thing for the British public and British taxpayers’ because ‘only one in 10 tickets are sold currently in ticket offices.’
But the RDG has been told by Transport Secretary Mark Harper its proposals do not meet thresholds and train operators should withdraw them.
He said: “We have engaged with accessibility groups throughout this process and listened carefully to passengers as well as my colleagues in parliament.
“The proposals that have resulted from this process do not meet the high thresholds set by ministers, and so the government has asked train operators to withdraw their proposals.
“We will continue our work to reform our railways with the expansion of contactless Pay As You Go ticketing, making stations more accessible through our Access for All programme and £350 million funding through our Network North plan to improve accessibility at up to 100 stations.”
The RDG, which represents rail companies, defended its proposals as being an attempt to balance the ‘changing needs of customers’ with ‘the significant financial challenge faced by the industry.’
Chief executive Jacqueline Starr said: “While these plans won’t now be taken forward, we will continue to look at other ways to improve passenger experience while delivering value for the taxpayer.
“Our priority remains to secure a vibrant long-term future for the industry and all those who work in it.”