Campaigners are today celebrating at news that the Government is to do a U-turn on proposals to shut most of England’s railway ticket offices, including the ticket office in Durham City.
Earlier this year, Ministers announced plans to “modernise” the railway by closing all of England’s ticket offices. But the plans were met with a groundswell of opposition, with the consultation amassing an unprecedented 680,000 responses and prompting organisations such as the Parish Council, local residents’ associations and disabled rights campaign groups in Durham to voice their strong opposition to the proposals.
In July, the Parish Council requested an urgent meeting with the Rail Minister Huw Merriman MP in a bid to save the Ticket Office at Durham Railway station. According to FOI data released by the Department for Transport earlier this year, almost 140,000 tickets were sold in the ticket office in Durham in 2019 before the pandemic. The latest figures show that over 76,000 tickets were sold in the ticket office in 2022.
The Parish Council has said throughout that passengers would no longer have widespread and easy access to the purchase of rail products and best value fares if the ticket offices closures went ahead as planned. The Council argued that Durham has the highest number of passengers from among the stations where LNER propose to close the ticket office and demand for the ticket office in Durham remains high, with an estimated 14,000 tickets purchased each year at Durham Station alone.
The Parish Council has argued that the Ticket office closures would cause a significant worsening of the facilities and support offered to disabled, deaf and older residents. Already, disabled people face numerous barriers in accessing the rail network and are three times less likely to travel by rail than non-disabled people.
For this reason, the City of Durham Parish Council decide to lead the campaign locally against the plans.
Welcoming the news earlier today, Chair of the Parish Council’s Business Committee, Coun. Richard Ormerod (pictured) said: “We are delighted that the Government has seen sense and has now decided to U-turn on these ill-thought-out plans, which would have seen our ticket office in Durham close for good. I am delighted that the Parish Council has been leading the campaign to save our much-loved ticket office in Durham City. These plans have amassed a sea storm of objections and the Parish Council sought a sit down with the rail minister earlier this year to highlight our concerns. Rail users in Durham really value the exceptional service provided by the ticket office staff and it has been our contention throughout that these ticket office closures would impact on disabled and elderly users the hardest.”
He added: “The benefit of the human touch for railway users goes well beyond just the sale of tickets. Ticket Office staff are often first aid trained, provide users with a sense of security and safety when travelling at night and can also offer a range of ticket fares which often are not available via a ticket machine. Any supposed cost savings by cutting staff could never justify a policy that will worsen passenger service, accessibility, safety, security, and access to rail products. We are celebrating this excellent result today.”