Direct Access on the reversal of UK rail ticket office closure proposals

Avanti West Coast Train arrives at a train station on a cloudy day.

Earlier this year, a consultation programme was undertaken to ascertain the future of around 1,000 ticket offices at stations.

These plans were initially developed by train operators to provide more staff on platforms and in response to an increase in the number of tickets purchased online.

Today, it was announced that the UK government were cancelling these plans in a huge U-turn.

The news comes mere weeks after Rishi Sunak announced the scrapping of phase 2 of HS2, the new high-speed railway line which would have further connected major population centres in Britain, including Manchester, Crewe, Leeds, and Birmingham.

As both the initial proposal and cancellation of the plans to scrap ticket offices were both results of government decision-making, rail providers have been left frustrated by the U-turn, having already begun addressing the implications of ticket office closures internally. Additionally, measures to inform groups that this decision was likely to affect most (disabled people) were already well underway. As part of their process, Direct Access even played a key role – as we worked with several rail companies to produce Easy Read and Large Print documentation outlining the proposals to the public, with the aim of communicating the implications of these closures on the daily commutes of disabled people. 

Ticket offices are a means by which disabled people can directly ask for assistance on their journey. Aside from the fact that older adults generally prefer this, mobility-impaired individuals, as well as people with learning difficulties, often struggle with ticket machines for various reasons. While there is a clear argument and statistics that demonstrate people prefer to buy in advance through apps rather than on the day, the freedom to choose depending on your preference (or capability) is a huge point of contention for different types of disabled people. Direct Access undertakes accessibility audits for railway operators across the UK which includes assessing and recommending upgrades to ticket office facilities.

It comes as no surprise to us that the main factor influencing the government’s decision beyond the financial implications, was the result of public accessibility consultations on the proposals. It demonstrates that disabled people not only have a voice but can directly influence Government action. What it also demonstrates, though, is the importance of information equity and clear communication – which Direct Access provided to disabled people by delivering this proposal in accessible formats. 

When there is a public consultation challenging proposals, it is essential that we continue to accommodate Deaf and disabled people by providing information in formats that suit them. 

Direct Access Consultancy was able to provide this vital service to train operating companies across the United Kingdom, including both Avanti West Coast and TransPennine.

Today’s result was not a result of the actions of rail service providers alone, and not necessarily because of Direct Access. It is because Deaf and disabled people were able to access information and respond accordingly and tell the Government what they thought. 

Changing Places sign at Coventry Station

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