Rail station ticket office closure plan cancelled

The RNIB, which had campaigned for the plan to be scrapped, is “delighted” by the news

Side view of an elderly man in glasses smiling at a ticket office
Getty/Aja Koska

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has reacted to news that the closure of England’s rail station ticket offices will not go ahead, saying that “the voice of blind and partially sighted people has been heard.”

Huw Merriman MP, minister of state for rail, confirmed his department's intention to scrap the plans during a meeting with RNIB chief executive Matt Stringer on Tuesday morning (31 October), OT understands.

A public statement on the news was later made by Mark Harper MP, secretary of state for transport. 

The cancellation comes after more than 750,000 responses were received during a consultation on the plans.

The original plan, which had been agreed by the Department of Transport and the Rail Delivery Group, would have seen the closure of most rail ticket offices across England and at Glasgow Central Station in Scotland.

RNIB research has shown that only 3% of people with sight loss can use a ticket vending machine without any problems, with 58% saying it is impossible.

In September, a group of RNIB staff and volunteers gathered outside the Department of Transport to oppose the plans.

Stringer said: “We are delighted the voice of blind and partially sighted people has been heard, and the minister has made this change.

“It’s essential the experiences of people with sight loss are properly understood in decision-making. These closures would have left many blind and partially sighted people unable to live a full life: without a means to see family, go to their health appointments and play their part in our communities.”

The RNIB has noted that a large number of blind and partially sighted people live without the internet and without a smartphone, meaning they are effectively excluded from buying train tickets online.

The Department of Transport has now committed to forming a “working group with a variety of organisations to ensure a better train travelling experience in the future, with accessible technology and infrastructure improvements at its heart,” Stringer said.

The Rail Delivery Group said in a letter to stakeholders that, while their plans will not now be taken forward, they “will continue to look at other ways to improve passenger experience while delivering value for the taxpayer.”

Speaking about the consultation, Stringer added: “The huge upswell of concern by blind and partially sighted people was unprecedented within the community, as was the huge public opposition to the plans. It proves that nothing can replicate having a fixed train ticket location and office staff available as the first point of contact for many kinds of staff assistance.”

He continued: “Staff can make sure the correct tickets and concessions are bought, let people know if the lifts are out of use or advise on cancelled or delayed trains. This flexible, and often vital, assistance for blind and partially sighted people is not something apps or ticket machines can replicate.”