Stop callous and corner-cutting train ticket office closures

Josie Shelley, Stafford Socialist Party

For far too long this government has shown its utter contempt, not only to working-class people as a whole, but especially to disabled people. From vicious work capability assessments to their latest closures of railway station ticket offices.

I fully support transport union RMT in its ongoing industrial action. After talking to various RMT members who have assisted me on my journeys over the last few months, I know they are fighting for far more than just pay.

So, I was heartened to hear Mick Lynch, the general secretary of the RMT, defending the need for ticket offices, and how they are vital to people such as those who are visually impaired. As a registered blind person, it was nice to finally feel heard.

With just a small amount of sight, I rely heavily on public transport. As bus services have been cut in my area to the bone, I have relied more heavily on rail services.

Over the years, I have noticed a decline in the number of staff on hand at stations. Consequently, my reliance on the staff at ticket offices has increased.

This isn’t only to purchase a ticket. But also to ask for train times and platform numbers etc.  If I book passenger assistance, the ticket office is often my point of contact so they know I’ve arrived.

“What about…?”

People reading this may ask: “What about booking online or using digital ticket points?”

Smartphone transport apps very rarely allow for accessibility modifications. So, for me, are unusable

Digital ticket points are the same – no accessibility enhancements

Also, ticket points are quite often very low down to cater to people in wheelchairs etc. So, if like me you have to literally have your nose up to the screen. I usually end up having to squat down near the floor! This is not only uncomfortable, but very degrading and makes me feel self-conscious

My sight issues are very complex, and change day to day. So ambient light conditions can have differing effects accordingly. They’re either too bright or not bright enough. So using digital screens is even more of a challenge

As I can’t see the schedule boards either, if I want up-to-date train information, then the ticket office is often my go-to place, as it is easier to find than a staff member on a lot of occasions

If ticket offices were to close, then travel for me would be so difficult that I would be further isolated than I already am from going to different places. So, I urge everyone to support the RMT in its ongoing industrial action.

Privatisation is about making money for rail companies

Pete McNally, Hereford and Worcester Socialist Party member and former rail worker

No one thinks this is about improving the service. It is about saving the rail companies money.

The Rail Delivery Group says only 12% of ticket sales are now at stations. But that was still 119 million ticket sales in the year to March 2022.

And the main impact will be on the elderly, those with sight or mobility problems, and disabled people.

The official consultation on closing ticket offices lasts until 27 July. But the rail trade unions all oppose these plans, and will be campaigning against them too.

Mick Lynch, general secretary of transport union RMT, said: “It is clear that the whole enterprise of closing ticket offices has got nothing to do with modernisation, and is a thinly veiled plan to gut our railways of station staff.”

The big lies of rail privatisation are now clear. We’re supposed to submit to any plan that the bosses come up with in the name of profits for the shareholder. Ticket office closures will do nothing to improve the rail industry, but plenty to improve the bank balances of the companies.

The railways should be renationalised, under the democratic control of the rail unions, passengers and the rest of the working class. And there must be no compensation for the fat-cat shareholders who suck profits out of the rail industry every day.

Campaign starts now

Mick Whale, Hull Socialist Party

Activists from transport union RMT, Hull and District Trades Union Council, and the Socialist Party were out leafletting outside the train station together against ticket office closures.

Gaz Jackson, regional RMT organiser, said: “This latest attack on our ticket offices is just the thin end of the wedge. The Tory government are on a war footing with the RMT. They have a plan to dismantle any organisation that dares stand up against their ironfisted political agenda.”