AN ‘INSULT to passengers’ which ‘discriminates against the disabled, the poor and the elderly’ – that is how the proposal to close Rugby Train Station’s ticket office has been described by Rugby Rail Users Group (RRUG).
Station operator Avanti West Coast has earmarked Rugby’s ticket office for potential closure alongside 19 others across its network.
The proposals would see tickets available online and through self-service machines, with staff redeployed onto platforms and concourses.
The offices would be replaced by ‘ticketing support’ services covering fewer hours than current office opening times.
RRUG Chair Stephanie Clifford told The Observer that the group was ‘dismayed’ by the proposal.
She said: “The proposals discriminate against the disabled, the poor and the elderly, who are least likely to use the machines or online ticket purchase.
“It might only be 12 per cent of tickets that are sold at ticket offices, but it’s still a large number and many of these people have little other alternative.
“The human touch is so important for the significant, often disadvantaged, part of the community that needs ticket offices.”
She said the proposed reduction in hours for ‘ticketing support’ was not appropriate for a station where patronage was growing.
She added: “It seems likely that people using self-service machines will make wrong purchases and pay more than necessary, more people will be fined for having the wrong tickets – and it will also likely lead to an increase in fare evasion.
“Avanti are clearly trying to save costs and improve efficiency. However, attempting to sell the closure of ticket offices as part of a modernisation process which will enhance customer service is an utter deceit and an insult to passengers.
“Without a ticket office, the impression will be of a deserted station where people are not welcomed and tickets are optional. We urge a change of mind on these proposals.”
Rugby MP Mark Pawsey, who raised his concerns with government ministers and Avanti, urged residents to share their views in a public consultation.
He said: “For a number of my constituents, the ticket office is the best way for them to buy a ticket, particularly for more complex journeys.
“This is especially important for those who are digitally excluded, or who have struggled with self-service machines, and it is vital that they are still able to use Rugby station fully.”
Avanti West Coast Managing Director Andy Mellors said: “Our proposals would mean more staff on hand to give face-to-face help with a much wider range of needs.
“We also understand that our customers have differing needs which is why we will be consulting with accessibility groups on this consultation.”
To respond to the consultation, visit www.transportfocus.org.uk/ticket-office-consultation, email [email protected] or write to the freepost address RTEH-XAGE-BYKZ, Transport Focus, PO Box 5594, Southend on Sea, SS1 9PZ.
The consultation closes on July 26.