Rugby train ticket office saved following government u-turn - The Rugby Observer

Rugby train ticket office saved following government u-turn

Rugby Editorial 1st Nov, 2023   0

A U-TURN on plans to close Rugby Train Station’s ticket office has been welcomed by the town’s rail commuters.

But Rugby Rail Users Group (RRUG) says the decision is ‘not a step forward, but merely the removal of a bad proposal’, amid concerns the town’s rail services could yet suffer further cuts.

In July, station operator Avanti West Coast had earmarked Rugby’s ticket office for potential closure alongside 19 others across its network.

But Transport Secretary Mark Harper this week announced the government had asked train operators to withdraw the proposals.

RRUG Chair Stephanie Clifford told The Observer: “This u-turn has got an immediate reaction of ‘hurrah’ from our members – but people are now wondering what the Government will try to cut next?”

She said the government’s diversion of HS2 money to motorway building and its ‘plan for drivers’ – a clampdown on 20mph limits, bus lanes, low-traffic neighbourhoods, and the ability of councils to fine drivers who commit offences – were signs that ‘strategic long-term thinking is lacking’.

“This is of course on top of the ongoing cancellations on the Avanti train service at Rugby,” she added.

“RRUG is watching this situation closely. The withdrawal of the plan to remove ticket offices is not a step forward, but merely the removal of a bad proposal.”

Announcing the u-turn, Mr Harper said: “The consultation on ticket offices has now ended, with the government making clear to the rail industry throughout the process that any resulting proposals must meet a high threshold of serving passengers.

“We have engaged with accessibility groups throughout this process and listened carefully to passengers as well as my colleagues in parliament.

“The proposals that have resulted from this process do not meet the high thresholds set by ministers, and so the government has asked train operators to withdraw their proposals.”

When announced in July, the plans were described by RRUG as  ‘an insult to passengers’ which ‘discriminates against the disabled, the poor and the elderly’.

And Rugby MP Mark Pawsey, who raised concerns with government ministers and Avanti, 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.”

In September, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the decision was ‘the right thing for the British public and British taxpayers’ as ‘only one in 10 tickets are sold currently in ticket offices’.

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