In My View: Ellie Reeves MP for Lewisham West & Penge

In July train operators announced plans for the mass closure of England’s rail ticket offices.

Pushed by the Government to save costs, the proposals meant that almost all of the 1,007 remaining offices, would be closed within three years.

Unsurprisingly this was met with fierce resistance.

Passenger watchdogs said they received 750,000 responses opposed to the proposals.

This is hardly surprising. I know of so many people who still rely on our ticket offices, whether to purchase tickets or those with accessibility issues.

Indeed, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) said the mass closure of rail ticket offices “would have a hugely detrimental impact on blind and partially sighted people’s ability to buy tickets, arrange assistance and, critically, travel independently”.

Alongside my fellow Lewisham MPs, we wrote to the Transport Secretary outlining our concerns.

Not only would this impact on the accessibility of the rail network, especially for disabled and elderly passengers, but it would have huge implications on the job security of staff during a cost-of-living crisis.

I also raised on BBC Politics London how fewer staff at stations would have serious safety implications for passengers.

A visible staff presence can often be a deterrent at preventing crime and ticket evasions.

I also campaigned outside stations in my constituency where the ticket office was at risk of closure, and the level of concern was significant.

Just over two weeks ago the Government finally U-turned, announcing that they were no longer closing the ticket offices.

This was a huge victory for all those, from trade unions to disability groups, who worked so hard to outline why we need our offices.

But it’s a humiliating climbdown from the Government.

They now face serious questions about the huge waste of taxpayers’ money that was spent for months on flawed proposals and that had the extra insult of invoking huge job uncertainty for hardworking staff.

The plans were clearly not a plan for modernisation as the Government claimed, but about staff cuts by stealth, that would simply exacerbate the current managed decline of our railways.

But this poor management of the railways has been a common theme of the last 13 years.

Ticket prices skyrocketing, train cancellations reaching record highs and the frequency and quality of services massively reduced, all whilst train operators have been able to boost their profits.

Indeed, the timetable changes last year meant South-east London passengers have faced a huge decline in service.

A Labour Government would end the chaos on our railways by delivering a publicly-owned and unified rail network, bringing contracts into public ownership as they expire, with every decision tested against delivering for the passenger, to ensure cheaper fares and maximum passenger satisfaction.

A Labour Government would protect staff and get Britain’s railways back on track.

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