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Stand up now to save our ticket offices!

Greedy rail operators are choosing profits over people, writes MARYAM ESLAMDOUST

RECENT news confirmed that the ongoing fight of trade unionists, passengers, equality campaigners and others to save ticket offices in railway stations is having an impact. 

In a win for rail passengers and rail workers, it was confirmed that the consultation on the issue has been extended until September 1.

With rail operators and the government seeking to close 1,000 ticket offices in England, there is still an urgent need to raise awareness on the threat to our ticket offices and to make sure that the maximum number of responses are received to the consultation.

Closing these ticket offices will force thousands of rail workers out of critical jobs, jeopardising their livelihoods. These are public service staff who often go above and beyond to help keep our railway stations safe. 

Praised as heroes during the Covid crisis, their expertise, customer support and dedication deserve more respect, but instead they face an uncertain future.

Whatever spin the Tories and rail operators put on it, the reality is that ticket offices and ticket office staff provide critical services that the public both want and need. 

They are absolutely essential for the safety of passengers, and it is proven that crime on public transport soars when you de-staff the railways and stations.

Furthermore, the closures would make stations far less accessible to millions of people. 

To give just a few examples, ticket office closures are bound to affect many people who are digitally excluded, elderly, families, disabled people and others who are in need of support and advice when travelling on the railways.

As National Pensioners Convention general secretary Jan Shortt has recently put it: “Ticket machines do not have the full range of tickets and cannot give alternatives in the same way as staff in ticket offices can assist passengers. Those without the ability to go online or have a smartphone app are going to be excluded from accessing ticket purchases that suit their journey,” and “disabled, older and vulnerable people will not be able to access travel in a manner that suits their needs. This is discrimination.”

For these reasons, myself and other campaigners are calling on the government to publish equality impact assessments for every station affected by the proposed office closures. 

Additionally, they will make it harder for families travelling and tourists, just at a time when many places need the economic support that holiday and social travelling can bring. 

And at a time of a deepening climate emergency, when we should be encouraging more people than ever to travel on public transport, the closures would inevitably see more people choosing to travel by car rather than rail.

At a time of a deep cost-of-living crisis, the closure of ticket offices could also boost corporate profits by slyly removing access to deals and better value tickets for many passengers who can understandably find it difficult to navigate the often rip-off and confusing ticket prices that disastrous rail privatisation has brought about.

Closing ticket offices is also then a reflection of broader Tory government economic policy which always puts the profiteers’ needs before those of people and planet — with rail bosses rubbing their hands about “cost savings” that they hope could boost profits, whatever the detriment to passenger safety and accessibility.

Passengers need to unite with railway workers against the closure of ticket offices in England and demand fair solutions that value workers. In the weeks and months ahead, let’s make it crystal clear to the Tory government and the greedy rail bosses that the public is overwhelmingly opposed to plans that could see our ticket offices vanish. 

You can have your say at bit.ly/TicketOfficeClosures.

Maryam Eslamdoust is standing for TSSA general secretary on a platform to bring the union back together again, and restore TSSA back to its full might. She is supported by the union’s executive committee and has the highest number of nominations from branches and EC.

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