Plan to close ticket offices scrapped

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Controversial plans to axe up to 1,000 ticket offices across the UK, including Alderley Edge, Handforth and Wilmslow have been scrapped.

The plans were unveiled by the government on July 5th, having been proposed by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) - an industry body which represents private railway operators - in order to reduce costs following a drop in passenger numbers since Covid.

Speaking at the time of the announcement, Jacqueline Starr, Rail Delivery Group chief executive, said "The ways our customers buy tickets has changed and it's time for the railway to change with them.

"With just 12% of tickets being sold from ticket offices last year, and 99% of those transactions being available on TVMs or online, our proposals would mean more staff on hand on to give face to face help with a much wider range of support, from journey planning, to finding the right ticket and helping those with accessibility needs."

The government had initially backed the proposal but today they taken a U-turn and asked train operators to withdraw their proposals which were met with a huge backlash.

The government received 750,000 responses to the public consultation - with many raising concerns about the impact on vulnerable, elderly and disabled passengers.

The Friends of Handforth Station (FoHS) are amongst those who are delighted that the government has asked train operators to withdraw their proposals to close ticket offices in stations throughout England.

Hugh Everett, the Secretary of FoHS, said "For many reasons, this would have been a huge step backwards for Handforth: we only have one ticket machine at the moment, it often isn't working, it can only be accessed via a step, it does not accept cash, many in our community cannot use such machines. Also, for many people speaking with a friendly person - and other people they happen to meet - in a ticket office is a huge social benefit."

He added "The original proposals were accompanied by huge reductions in staffing hours, which would have been a major blow to the confidence of those wanting to use our station."

Jenny Barnes, the Chair of FoHS, said "While our initial reaction is relief, and satisfaction that our campaigning contributed towards the country-wide backlash against the proposals, we know that the rail industry still has a directive to cut costs. We'll continue to watch for further announcements, and we'll continue to campaign to make sure that the services at Handforth Station are improved and not made worse."

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Comments

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

David Hadfield
Tuesday 31st October 2023 at 1:39 pm
... but yet the Rail Companies have the audacity to run a series of adverts on television, promoting the use of railways. These ads must cost £millions to create and broadcast on British TV channels.
Why do they find the need to advertise and promote rail travel anyway ?
You don't think "oh yes, what a good idea. I'll just pop down to the station and travel to Scotland, or wherever" ?
Advertising Rail Travel does not increase passenger numbers.

Secondly, Alderley Rail Station is an absolute disgrace. Just look at the photo.
I'd be more impressed if they spent money on repairs and renovations instead of TV adverts !
Vince Chadwick
Wednesday 1st November 2023 at 8:17 am
This is great news, but it was never a Rail Delivery Group idea. It was a Department for Transport initiative, to be actioned by the RDG whose constituent rail companies, being under management contract to DfT, had no choice but to carry it out.

Since Covid, the rail companies are no longer responsible for service initiatives or revenue enhancement. They are merely retained by DfT on management contracts to carry out DfT's bidding. DfT micro-manage the railway in every way, including dictating what trains will run and which won't, as well as specifying those trains including the hard seats, lack of luggage space, deletion of on-train WiFi, and curtailing of on-board catering. Train operating companies cannot blow their noses without DfT telling them when and how.

For those calling for the return of BR... Well, we now have a state-run railway again in all but name, and few would disagree that it's never been worse than it is right now.

DfT's ludicrous plan to close almost all booking offices has failed in the face of overwhelming opposition, and also because it was practically unworkable. But beware - they will be looking for other ways to cost-cut on the railway, making train travel even worse and less reliable than it now is. They don't seem to mind driving people off trains and back into their cars. It confirms the government's lip service to carbon reduction.
Kelvin Briggs
Friday 3rd November 2023 at 9:30 am
I agree with David that the station could do with repairs especially to the dilapidated Crewe platform building. It continues to decay and no longer has a canopy for passengers to shelter under. In the photo of the Manchester platform building was taken before some recent refurbishment by Northern Trains Ltd. Two rooms either side of the waiting room have been upgraded. They are now available for commercial use on a lease basis. Some brickwork has been repainted and repairs to the Manchester platform canopy have commenced. There has been investment in new CCTV cameras with additional ones installed only this week following strong representation from the Alderley Edge Station Volunteer Group who are lobbying both Northern trains and Network Rail to further improve the fabric of the buildings.
David Hadfield
Friday 3rd November 2023 at 2:49 pm
Sounds like good news Kelvin ... Many thanks for that.
Vince Chadwick
Friday 3rd November 2023 at 5:14 pm
Kelvin and the Station Volunteer Group have done and are doing great work to spruce up Alderley station, but really it needs investment by Northern Trains / Network Rail to repair the infrastructure. In particular the buildings on the Crewe-bound platform are in dire need of rescuing. The platform canopy there was simply gas-axed off the derelict building some time ago (by Network Rail?) as it was considered to be becoming unsafe, leaving gaps for the weather to get into the roof structure and accelerate damage to the building. There does not seem to be any signs that it will be replaced, so apart from a tiny 'bus shelter' soon filled, when it rains waiting passengers get wet and can't even sit down as the platform seats are wet as well.

Both Northern Trains and Network Rail are state-operated, so no-one can blame a rail company for the state of the station. All the local stations on our line were built in1842 to a high standard by a private company, the one that built the railway; the Manchester & Birmingham Railway Company. Will the now state-run railway step up to the plate and provide the funds to make Alderley Edge Railway Station buildings once again fit for our village?
David Hadfield
Saturday 4th November 2023 at 7:51 am
Great comments from both Kelvin and Vince ... Very informative indeed.
Guess it's over to our local MP Esther McVey for her to lobby the government and get them to improve this disgraceful situation ?
Alderley station is shabby and an absolute embarrassment when greeting visitors from other parts of the country or even abroad.
Thanks again to Kelvin and his colleagues in trying to improve the buildings.
Andy Brown
Monday 6th November 2023 at 11:08 am
They will eventually do what they do elsewhere - flatten the building and replace with bus shelters.

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