Somerset station ticket offices saved
Plans to shut many of the ticket offices at railway stations have been cancelled after a public outcry. Under the plans train operators, GWR and SWR would have closed all the station ticket offices in Somerset. That includes stations at Bridgwater, Castle Cary, Crewkerne, Frome, Taunton, Templecombe and Yeovil Junction and Penn Mill.
Nationally train companies argued that only 12% of tickets were sold through station ticket offices.
The key point they missed, is that those ticket sales were vital for the elderly and disabled passengers. There were threats of legal challenges of the ground of discrimination had the closures gone through.
Today Secretary of State for Transport, Mark Harper MP announced that he had asked the train companies to withdraw their proposals. He claimed this was because they failed to meet high passenger standards.
The train companies responded with anger saying that he had given a green light to their proposals in the first place. Which under the rules governing the current franchise arrangements seems highly likely.
The response to the consultation was massive and predominantly against the closures. It was reported that over 750,000 people responded to passenger watchdogs Transport Focus and London Travelwatch.
In Taunton, Gideon Amos, the parliamentary candidate for Wellington & Taunton constituency organised a petition against the closure of the ticket office at Taunton Station. The petition attracted 700 signatures.
Commenting on the government U turn, Cllr Tom Deakin, Leader of Taunton Town Council, added: “As a town council, we were united in our opposition to these proposals and submitted our own letter of objection.”
The rail union the RMT also welcomed the decision. General secretary Mick Lynch said that it was a resounding victory for the union’s campaign and a win for passengers, community groups and rail workers alike: “We are now calling for an urgent summit with the government, train operating companies, disabled and community organisations and passenger groups to agree a different route for the rail network that guarantees the future of our ticket offices and stations staff jobs to delivers a safe, secure and accessible service that puts passengers before profit,”