Ticket offices at over 1,000 stations are said to be at risk of closure, according to the RMT union, after the government amended guidance regarding the opening times of offices.
Locals to Cross Gate station stood alongside campaigners from Disabled People Against Cuts, Unite and RMT members on the streets to express their concern at how the potential closure of their ticket office could impact vulnerable residents.
The campaigners were worried that should the ticket office close, the station would become less accessible to disabled people, older people and anyone who has trouble using the ticket machines.
Local resident and Unite member Margaret Batty spearheaded the campaign. Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post, she said: “We object to the proposed closure as it would cut out so much of the accessibility for those with disabilities or the elderly who might struggle to use a machine. Ticket office staff have so much advice and are able to advise on the cost of journeys and how to get the best fares.
“Removing the ticket office would just make the station inaccessible to so many people. If you need assistance on the train, then there is an app but that doesn’t always work so having that human connection.”
Councillor Jess Lennox, who represents Cross Gates and Whinmoor, also spoke to the Yorkshire Evening Post at the Cross Gates protest. She said: “We’ve been speaking to people who said that if there is no ticket staff then their mum won’t use the trains anymore which means she won’t go into Leeds to meet her friends once a month.
“We’ve had issues recently with anti-social behaviour and criminal damage on the tracks so it is a safety issue as well. If we don’t have staff at the station to keep an eye on things then the responsiveness if something happens on the tracks will drop off significantly which just heightens the danger.”
The RMT recently sent a letter to Westminster, signed by an array of campaign organisations and charities, including Disability Rights UK, Royal National Institute for Deaf People, the Equality Trust and Transport for All – stating the case for keeping ticket offices open.
The union believe that closing offices will lead to not only unacceptable job losses but severely disadvantage the disabled vulnerable and elderly.
The letter read:
“We believe that these policies would inevitably lead to an extensive de-staffing of the rail network and that there would be a significant impact on the accessibility of the railway for your constituents, particularly deaf, disabled and older people.
“Disabled people already face numerous barriers in accessing the railway, and subsequently are three times less likely to travel by rail than non-disabled people.
“Staff play a vital role in ensuring the rail network is accessible and many disabled and older people rely on the presence of staff to be able to travel.
“In 2019, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission wrote to the Chair of the Transport Select Committee and warned that the combination of DOO and unstaffed stations could ‘represent a diminution of protection for disabled people’ and ‘potentially be a breach of the Equality Act’.
“We believe that there is a very real risk that the current policies being pursued by the Government and rail companies could ultimately mean that many disabled people are excluded from using the railway altogether. We believe that this would be a breach of equalities legislation.”
Image credit: Steve Riding