LEARNING disability charity Hft says the planned closure of ticket offices in train stations across England is an exclusionary measure that will exacerbate barriers around travel, particularly for learning disabled people.
The Government’s proposal will see 1000 ticket offices close at train stations across the country, limiting options for purchasing tickets to buying online or at ticket vending machines.
Victoria Hemmingway, Head of Public Affairs and Policy at Hft said:
“While we understand the want to modernise the railway networks and ‘improve the passenger experience’, the proposed measures will have a profoundly negative impact on anyone with a learning or physical disability who may rely on public transport to access their workplace or to socialise.
“While only 12% of tickets are currently purchased at ticket offices, this is a huge number when you consider the millions of train journeys that take place each year. These journeys are often more difficult for disabled people due to physical barriers at stations and the lack of support and information available for those who need it. The proposed measures will only exacerbate barriers around travel for disabled people and will likely lead to a reduction in the number of disabled people who travel via train in England.
“Almost one-quarter of disabled people can’t, or don’t have, access to the internet so leaving online purchases as one of the only methods of buying train tickets and rail cards further limits options for disabled people. Ticket vending machines also remain largely inaccessible for wheelchair users, visually impaired people and those with limited dexterity. We would like to see the Government upgrade these machines across the country so that they are easier to access and use.”
The Government has also suggested it will reduce the number of staff in train stations, moving existing ticket office staff to ‘multi-tasking’ roles.
“Train station staff are an essential part of train travel for many learning disabled people. Not only are they essential for physical support when boarding a train, but they also provide necessary help and reassurance to anyone who may need more support when travelling.”
Elliot, a learning disabled adult from North Shields who has previously campaigned for Hft on the lack of accessible housing, says the plans are ‘an absolute scandal!’
“Travel is already an issue for learning disabled people and these new plans will just make it harder for us. We’re already at a disadvantage as buying tickets in person is often more expensive than buying online in advance but sometimes we don’t have a choice.
“The Government assumes that everyone has access to a smartphone or the internet but this is not the case. Assuming this just excludes people from travelling.
“Reducing the number of staff in train stations is also worrying and could make people feel more vulnerable as there will be no one around to help if you need it.
“I understand why the Government is proposing these changes – it’s a cost-cutting measure. But they haven’t thought about how it might affect older people or disabled people. It will just make travel harder and excludes anyone who might need additional assistance when travelling.
“If it was up to me, the ticket offices would remain open.”
The proposals are currently subject to public consultation.