COVENTRY North West MP Taiwo Owatemi has welcomed the decision to scrap ‘shambolic’ proposals to close rail station ticket offices after she petitioned the government to stop the controversial move.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper confirmed the U-turn on the proposals this morning, saving the ticket offices at Coventry Canley and Tile Hill stations from the axe.
Mr Harper said the Government had asked train operators to withdraw the proposals as they had not met the high threshold of serving passengers set by Ministers.
Under the plans, all ticket offices in their current form would have closed over the next three years, apart from several ‘hub stations’, such as Birmingham Snow Hill, Sutton Coldfield, University and Wolverhampton.
Instead, the rail firms said there would be a ‘visible and accessible staff presence’ on ticket concourses and platforms during staff hours.
The rationale for the move was just 12 per cent of all tickets are currently sold at offices, compared to 82 per cent in the 1990s and around half of all sales nationally were now made online.
In September, Coventry City Council said it objected to the proposed closure of rail station ticket offices unless rail firms could give assurances the plans would not affect passengers or lead to job losses.
Ms Owatemi, meanwhile, launched a petition in July calling for the department for transport to stop the proposed closures, claiming the news was ‘deeply worrying’ for many elderly and disabled people across Coventry as well as ticket office staff.
She said: “Thank you to everyone who signed my petition to keep Coventry’s rail ticket offices open- while I welcome this U-turn, this shambolic proposal should never have been put forward.”
Mr Harper added: “We have engaged with accessibility groups throughout the consultation process and listened carefully to passengers as well as my colleagues in Parliament.
“We will continue our work to reform our railways with the expansion of contactless Pay As You Go ticketing, making stations more accessible through our Access for All programme and £350 million funding through our Network North plan to improve accessibility at up to 100 stations.”