Ageing Better responds to consultation on plans to close up to 1,000 rail ticket offices
Almost half a million people have responded to a consultation on plans to close most railway ticket offices in England.
Our Deputy Director for Localities, Natalie Turner, says that we must not exclude certain sectors of society when incorporating new technologies to improve public services.
More than 460,000 people have responded to a consultation on plans to close up to 1,000 rail ticket offices in England, the watchdogs London TravelWatch and Transport Focus have revealed.
Through the consultation, the watchdogs will consider issues such as whether the station will continue to be staffed, accessibility, the alternative options for buying tickets, and whether passengers will continue to be able to access facilities like lifts, waiting rooms and toilets.
Rail unions and passenger groups have launched campaigns against the plans to close most rail ticket offices, warning Disabled and older passengers will be particularly affected.
Natalie Turner, Deputy Director for Localities at the Centre for Ageing Better, said:
“The proposed closure of up to 1,000 railway station ticket offices across the country risks increasing levels of social exclusion for millions. The move will have a disproportionate and negative impact on a wide range of passengers who struggle to access services online, including some older and disabled people, people on lower incomes, and people in rural communities.
“Advancing technology can improve some customer’s experiences but for many it won’t replace the level of support able to be provided by a person. This move will undoubtedly deter many from travelling by train including the more than one in four people aged over 65 who do not own a smartphone and the one in five people, rising to almost one in two among those of pension age, who are Disabled.
The move will have a disproportionate and negative impact on a wide range of passengers who struggle to access services online, including some older and disabled people, people on lower incomes, and people in rural communities.
“This is part of a broader challenge for society to incorporate new technology for improved customer and user service without deepening exclusion. The closure of bank branches and the uptake of cashless parking indicates that we have not found that balance yet.
“Our State of Ageing report, released in 2022, shows that more than three million people aged 55 and over have never been online. People who aren’t online need to be considered in any changes to services and public services should always provide a non-digital alternative. That may limit the levels of cost-savings possible but the exclusion of millions from society, including many vulnerable people, is not worth the price.
“The importance of this issue demands the process is handled sensitively. But the scale of these closures, the hasty original deadline for the consultation and concerns the outcome is already pre-determined, raises alarm bells. The Centre for Ageing Better is calling for a Commissioner for Older People and Ageing in England for just such instances to ensure that marginalised older people have someone who can advocate on their behalf and push for a fair process.”
The consultation was originally scheduled to close on 26 July, but the deadline was extended to 1 September to allow more people to share their views.