Cambs & Peterborough Combined Authority challenges ‘unlawful’ rail ticket offices closure
The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority has denounced the proposed closure of railway station ticket offices as ‘unlawful’.
The Combined Authority has voiced its ‘deep concerns’ on behalf of station users, especially vulnerable travellers, in a powerful response to the Rail Delivery Group consultation which has just closed.
Following the consultation, Transport Focus will consider how the move will affect passengers, staffing levels at stations, and accessibility for people who need extra support while travelling.
The Government will then have the final say on whether ticket offices will close their doors, and which ones.
In a robust pushback, the Combined Authority prefaces its objections by saying the whole consultation process is flawed, making it unlawful, and should be re-run as it fails to inform the public properly of the plans.
The Combined Authority says, “Any fair consultation gives enough time and detail to enable intelligent, meaningful comment and that the information is shared in a way accessible for all would-be participants.”
The Combined Authority contends that the process is unlawful because the plans to discontinue use of parts of railway stations do not comply, or commit to comply, with the procedure stipulated in section 29 of the Railways Act 2005.
It also says Equality Impact Assessments of the planned changes at individual stations should have been made available to inform consultees’ consideration of the proposals.
Without these, the Combined Authority argues that the impact on vulnerable people, like those with vision or mobility difficulties, or those who need to get the cheapest travel deal, can’t be properly assessed.
Train travel is a lifeline, offering independence and bringing key services and work and leisure opportunities within many people’s reach. On-the-spot station staff can be vital for those who need any kind of help, for those who don’t have internet access or can’t use ticketing machines easily.
In its response, the Combined Authority asks for a figure to be put on staff changes at each station and says that “staffed, accessible ticket offices are an essential part of the rail network and must be protected.”
Mayor of Cambridgeshire, Dr Nik Johnson: “As I’ve said from the start, fully staffed and properly accessible ticket offices should be treated as an essential, non-negotiable part of the rail system.
“As a Combined Authority, we’ve made our position known to the train operators, objecting to their proposals for widespread closure, and making clear our concerns about a consultation process that risked preventing meaningful participation.
“So much of our work here in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is dedicated to improving public transport such that it become the obvious choice for more and more of our residents. These proposals fly in the face of that approach, as stations without ticket offices could become no-go areas for many, wilfully excluding people who require in-person support, and denying access to those who can’t buy their tickets online.
“This is discrimination by design and must be opposed.”