RNIB calls for ticket office consultation to be made more accessible

The consultation on the closure of rail station ticket offices in England has been extended to September

A man with white hair and a queue of people behind him leans on the counter of a ticket office

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has called for the consultation on rail station ticket offices in England to be made more accessible.

An extension to the length of the consultation was announced today (Wednesday 26 July). It was originally supposed to end at midnight, after being open for 21 days.

It will now be open for views until 1 September, giving the public and stakeholders and extra five weeks to make their concerns known.

The RNIB has called for the consultation to be made more accessible through large print and braille.

It is also calling for a standardised process, as well as a tool to allow people to determine which train operating companies run the stations they care about.

Matt Stringer, RNIB’s chief executive, said: “Since plans to close train ticket offices were announced we have heard in great detail from blind and partially sighted people about the hugely damaging impact that this will have on their ability to travel independently, to buy tickets, and arrange assistance.

“The consultation has been extended today after we raised our concerns that a short and complex process would prevent many blind and partially sighted people from responding within the tight timeframe.”

The charity, along with others in the visual impairment sector, had previously written an open letter to Mark Harper MP, the secretary of state for transport, about how the closure of ticket offices would impact blind and partially sighted people.

Around 1000 ticket offices, including around 150 in London, would be closed if the proposals were to go ahead.

In the letter, the charities stated that the closure of the ticket offices would “unavoidably have a severe negative impact on blind and partially sighted people’s ability to purchase tickets, arrange assistance, and travel independently by rail.”

It added that the charities were “deeply disappointed that the consultation has been launched in a rushed, uncoordinated and overly complex manner.”

The letter, which was also signed by the CEOs of charities including the Macular Society, the Thomas Pocklington Trust, SeeAbility and Fight for Sight, went on to ask for a meeting with Harper and the rail minister, Huw Merriman.

A meeting was granted, and took place on Monday 17 July.

Speaking after the extension was announced, Stringer added: “We will continue to urge Mark Harper and Huw Merriman to halt these proposals and keep ticket offices open, as the risk is to leave blind and partially sighted people behind a new barrier.”

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, said that as of 26 July his organisation and fellow independent watchdog London TravelWatch had collectively received more than 170,000 comments on the proposals.

“It is important that a diverse range of views from all parts of the community are heard in this consultation,” Smith said.

London TravelWatch has created a video explaining how the consultation works, and how information supplied will be used.

The voices of passengers are "fundamental to this process,” Michael Roberts, chief executive of London TravelWatch, said in the video.

Announcing the extension, Jacqueline Starr, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, emphasised that “Train companies have listened to feedback, and are extending the time available to respond to the consultation on changes to how tickets are sold at stations to 1 September.”

Starr added: “Operators are keen to give more people a chance to give their views on the proposals, so they can bring the railway up to date with dramatic shifts in customer buying habits, while supporting all its customers as the railway evolves and adapts.”

Those who want to respond to the consultation can do so via Transport Focus.