Rail station ticket office consultation closes

RNIB staff and volunteers gathered at the Department of Transport on Friday 1 September, after 680,000 responses to the ticket office closure consultation were received

RNIB staff and volunteers wearing pink t-shirts gather outside the Department of Transport to oppose plans to close train ticket offices

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) staff and volunteers gathered outside the Department of Transport in Central London on Friday 1 September, to mark the end of the consultation on rail station ticket office closures.

The charity is demanding the scrapping of plans, which would see the mass closure of rail ticket offices across England and at Glasgow Central Station in Scotland.

The consultation received 680,000 responses.

Vivienne Francis, RNIB’s chief social change officer, said: “The overwhelming view from the majority of blind and partially sighted people is that closing ticket offices would put the brakes on people travelling, be it to get to work or to see their team play or just to meet friends.

“RNIB is standing behind this groundswell of opinion and vehemently opposes these proposed changes.”

Francis added: “Closing rail ticket offices would have a severe impact on blind and partially sighted people’s ability to purchase tickets, arrange assistance, and travel by rail – and exacerbate the barriers that already exist to independent travel.”

RNIB research has found that only 3% of blind and partially sighted respondents said they could use a ticket vending machine without problems, with 58% saying it was impossible.

More than three quarters (76%) said they would prefer to buy tickets from a person at a ticket office. 88% said it is important to have a fixed location at which to find staff.

RNIB research also highlighted accessibility problems with online ticket websites and apps, which often exclude blind and partially sighted people when using smartphones.

The Rail Delivery Group announced the consultation on planned closures in July. It was originally set to be open for 21 days, but was later extended until September.

In July, the RNIB called for the consultation to be made more accessible, through the inclusion of large print and braille.

The charity will continue to campaign now that the consultation period has closed, Francis said.

Next steps are set to be announced in October.

Francis confirmed that the RNIB will “continue speaking out to government and suggesting solutions” in the interim.

She added: “Although to some sighted customers, physical ticket offices could belong in the past, we need to challenge assumptions that everyone can use touchscreens and apps. As far as we are concerned, modernisation of the railways shouldn’t mean leaving anyone behind and inclusivity for all should be at the heart of any changes.”

Lead image: RNIB staff and volunteers gather outside the Department of Transport to oppose plans to close train ticket offices