‘A campaign we must win’: Andy Burnham and Northern mayors take legal action against station ticket office closures

Andy Burnham and other northern regional mayors are set to take legal action against the widespread closure of train station ticket offices, it can be revealed tonight.

They have joined forces to launch legal action against train operators TransPennine Express, Northern Trains Ltd, LNER, EMR, Thameslink, Greater Anglia and Avanti West Coast, arguing that a 21-day public comment period is “inappropriate for changes of this magnitude. . Mayors said the closure plans would impact the most vulnerable in society, including people with disabilities and the elderly.

Pre-action protocol letters have already been sent, in which they collectively set out a series of concerns, outline their legal case and request that the consultation be suspended. They said if no action was taken by the operators, they would take further legal action.

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Writing in the Manchester Evening News, Greater Manchester Mayor Mr Burnham said: “For the good of the country, this is a campaign we must win.

“If the government and the rail industry get their way, it will erode what remains of public confidence in rail travel – and rush Britain into a faceless and soulless society. Rail operators may present these plans, but make no mistake – the government stands behind them and hands them the axe.”

The consultation was announced on July 5(Image: Geoffrey Swaine/REX/Shutterstock)

He promised that legal action would be taken if the consultation to close the majority of rail ticket offices and reduce the staff available to help passengers was “not suspended and reconsidered”. The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) announced plans for some 1,007 ticket offices on July 5, giving the public 21 days to have their say.

The mayors said if the consultation was put on hold they would call for an urgent meeting with ministers to ‘discuss how reform of our railways can be undertaken for the benefit, not the detriment, of passengers’.

THE Manchester Evening News reported that a ticket office will remain open at Manchester Victoria station, but the one at Manchester Piccadilly is due to close, despite being the busier of the two. Rail operator Northern has also confirmed plans to close staffed ticket offices at 45 Greater Manchester stations, although they will remain at six other stations.

Meanwhile, Avanti West Coast, which serves London Euston from Manchester Piccadilly, has confirmed that the consultation, which will see phased changes over three years, will apply to 16 stations it runs – including Stockport and Wigan North Western – as well than at its ticket offices at Network Rail Stations where it is the main retailer, including Manchester Piccadilly.

The Piccadilly ticket office, however, “will remain open at short notice for customers who have complicated ticket inquiries which cannot currently be processed online or at an ATM”, Avanti added, although no timeframe has not been given. Mr Burnham decried what he called “chaotic and utterly inadequate” consultation.

“The government and the rail operating companies know what they’re doing here, they’re trying to portray staff cuts and cost cuts as ‘customer service improvements,'” he said.

Protests against the plans(Picture: PA)

“What’s worse is that they’re trying to push this through a chaotic consultation – that’s why we’ve come together with this legal challenge to put the process on hold immediately. These closures will impact on the most vulnerable in our society, including elderly and disabled people, and giving them just 21 days to give their opinion when they are less likely to have access to the internet is outrageous.”

Mayors said many ticket machines at stations outside London are not accessible as they are cashless. Of the 467 northern railway stations, 449 have ticket vending machines.

“As part of their advocacy for the closures, the RDG said 12% of train ticket transactions are at the counter, which in reality still represents 60 million ticket sales per year,” they said. . “In Greater Manchester, 16% of tickets are sold at the box office, a figure above the national average.

“This disparity is also reflected in the fact that at the national level, one in eight tickets is sold at the ticket office, while in the North stations, it is one in six. Of the 191 ticket offices in the North, 165 must close. The proposals would also see station staff cut by more than 250 jobs by Northern Trains alone. »

Mr Burnham added: “These plans represent the complete destruction of our rail services. They are trying to close almost all ticket offices while services in the north are the least reliable they have ever been, but prices are still climbing at ceiling.

“It’s almost like they’re trying to get people off the rails and we’re not going to tolerate that.”

Andy Burnham (Image: Joel Goodman)

The Rail Delivery Group says its proposals would lead to “more face-to-face support for customers”, with ticketing staff moving into “multi-purpose customer support roles”. He also insists that customers with accessibility needs “will always be taken care of.”

Jacqueline Starr, chief executive of Rail Delivery Group, said when announcing the plans: ‘The way our customers buy tickets has changed and it’s time the railway changed with them. With only 12% of tickets sold at the box office last year, and 99% of those transactions being available on TVM or online, our proposals would mean more staff available to provide face-to-face assistance with a range of support much wider, from planning the trip to finding the right ticket and helping people with accessibility needs.

“Our commitment is that we will always treat our staff, who are highly valued and integral to our customers’ experience on the railway, fairly, with additional support and training to progress into new roles. more engaging. We also understand that our customers have different needs, which is why the industry solicited the views of accessibility and passenger groups extensively when creating these proposals, and will continue to do so throughout. consultation.

“We encourage those wishing to participate to visit their local rail company’s website or visit Transport Focus or London Travelwatch.”

  • The action is supported by the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham; West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin; Liverpool City-Region Mayor Steve Rotheram; South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard; and the Mayor of Cambridge and Peterborough, Dr Nik Johnson.

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