More people participated in the consultation over the threat of closure to the nation’s railway ticket offices than in any previous public consultation held in this country.
In all, two travel watchdogs received a combined 680,000 responses from commuters and rail passengers over the proposals to close virtually every staffed ticket office.
And judging by the passionate campaigning around the issue, culminating in a well-attended rally last week, the bulk of the consultation responses are likely to have been opposed, if not outright hostile, to the government-inspired, cost-cutting measures suggested.
At the rally, speakers included Mick Lynch, the general secretary of the RMT rail workers union, accessibility rights campaigners representing older and disabled rail users, and Jeremy Corbyn, the MP for Islington North.
Lynch told the rally that the closure of the ticket offices will result in an extensive reduction of station staff, rendering railways inaccessible to thousands of disabled, vulnerable and elderly passengers. “People up and down this country are sick and tired of their communities being hollowed out,” Lynch said.
The consultation closed on Friday 1 September, and in releasing the initial figures London TravelWatch, one of the watchdogs engaged to sift through the public response, said today that “concerns were raised around accessibility, safety and security, issues with ticket machines and how stations will be staffed in future”.
All of which would be fairly obvious to anyone other than officials at the Department for Transport who would prefer to reduce staffing levels, and service, than do anything to cut costs be reducing the amount of public cash handed over to the privately owned and under-performing rail operating companies.
“Over the coming weeks, the watchdogs will continue to analyse the train operator proposals and public consultation responses before responding to train operators by 31 October,” London TravelWatch said.
“We’ve had an incredible response from the public with more than half a million responses, so it’s important we take this time to consider our response,” said Michael Roberts, chief executive of London TravelWatch.
“We are particularly interested in how individual stations will be staffed, how accessible they will be, options for buying tickets and whether passengers will be able to access facilities such as lifts, waiting rooms and toilets.”
London TravelWatch – which is funded by the London Assembly – and the other watchdog, Transport Focus, will publish the response to each train company’s proposal online with an overview of the number of responses received, and the main issues raised in the consultation.
TravelWatch explained today: “If the watchdogs object, the train company can refer its proposal to the Secretary of State [for Transport; currently Tory MP Mark Harper] for a final decision. The Department for Transport has published guidance which sets out the approach the Secretary of State will take if this happens.”
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