Opinion: U-turn over ticket offices a welcome first – and remembering the brilliant Matthew Perry was more than just Chandler Bing
I think this week has scored a first for me as a journalist – or very close to it.
I said back in July when the consultation on closing railway station ticket offices was launched that I doubted it would go any other way than seeing them all – including the one in March – shut.
But how wrong I was. There has been a massive U-turn on the whole shambolic proposal and not one ticket office will now be closing.
A victory for common sense? In all my years – and it has been decades as a reporter – I have rarely seen a public consultation aimed at a cut or a closure end in anything but that happening.
So it is pretty marvellous that in this case, the opposite is true.
It’s a victory for campaigners who argued about the threat to access for those who don’t have computers or smartphones and don’t use the internet.
It is also a victory for staff, as I’m sure some of them would have been facing redundancy at some point had the decision to close gone ahead.
In this day and age where people rely more and more on their phones and the internet, it is easy to forget there is a raft of people out there who do not use technology in the same way.
The powers that be argued closing the ticket offices would bring staff closer to the public, but clearly that was not true. Having a ticket office manned by a human, rather than a machine, does mean staff have contact with customers.
They never really mentioned it was a cost-cutting exercise but they must think we are daft because we all knew it was really about money and not about customer care.
Apparently, the Government was behind the proposal to close in the first place, but it was their decision to ask the rail operators to withdraw the plans.
Surely that doesn’t mean the Government was initially out of touch with the needs of the people, that would be a silly suggestion, right?…
We all know how over-stretched the NHS is at the moment, how difficult it is to get an appointment with our GPs, long waits for hospital appointments, and so on.
But a recent family experience has highlighted it even more for me. As I reported previously my mum collapsed and broke her ankle.
Thankfully she is recovering nicely but is still in plaster (eight weeks on).
During those weeks she has had a couple of hospital appointments to visit the fracture clinic at Hinchingbrooke Hospital.
Because she is unable to put her foot down and is not quite up to using crutches she needs extra support and transporting her in a wheelchair to make these hospital appointments is not straightforward.
In fact, she needs specialist transport. On two out of three occasions when she had an appointment that transport was cancelled at exceedingly short notice – family members were practically at the hospital (a 40-minute drive away) to meet her there before the call came to say she wouldn’t be able to make it.
That meant a hospital appointment was missed on two occasions, but it was such short notice there was no way they could be offered to someone else.
How does that help the NHS’s current situation, doctors and nurses there ready to do what is needed for my mum, but their services for that appointment not used.
If what my mum has experienced is anything to go by there must be hundreds of appointments going to waste every day simply because the patients, relying on specialist transport provided for them, were unable to make it.
That surely is a situation that needs addressing, it is a waste of resources and it is only adding to waiting times because the original appointment is unused and another appointment is then needed, meaning a longer wait for someone else…
Finally, it has been a sad week for fans of the hit comedy Friends – the loss of a celebrity never goes unmarked it’s true.
But the outpouring over Matthew Perry has been quite remarkable.
There has been so much recognition for his talent as a comedy actor, his wit was responsible for many of the laughs on Friends as he helped with changes to the script.
Of course, he will be best remembered for Chandler Bing, but I think it is worth so much more to remember him for the amazing work he did in trying to help others, like him, who were afflicted with addictions to drink and drugs.
There are many celebrities out there who have had similar struggles, but there are very few who have turned their Malibu beach homes into a sanctuary for men’s sober living.
Shortly before his death, he was in the process of setting up a foundation dedicated to assisting those with substance abuse-related issues.
In the words of the famous Friends theme tune Matthew was “there for you” if you had a problem – and that is certainly something worth remembering and celebrating as we say goodbye to the man who brought us so many laughs over the years.
Rest in Peace Matthew Perry...