Labour’s Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham appeared to throw his weight behind GB News’ Don’t Kill Cash campaign while highlighting a “discriminatory” plan to remove rail ticket offices.
Train companies confirmed in July that they are pressing ahead with plans to close hundreds of station ticket offices across England over the next three years.
Under the plans, some ticket kiosks would remain in large stations, but many smaller stations would rely on ticket vending machines to assist passengers.
Currently, around three out of every five stations has a ticket office, with some only staffed part time.
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Speaking on GB News, Andy Burnham admitted that the plans concern him greatly, dubbing them “downright discriminatory” for disabled and elderly passengers.
“On the Government’s figures, 12 per cent of people don’t buy tickets digitally”, he said.
“These are people without access to online connectivity, and these are perhaps older or disabled people.
“Are we really saying these people don’t matter? For that reason I’m saying that these proposals are downright discriminatory.
“Many disabled people physically can’t use ticket machines. This is going to force these people off the railways.
“At a time when we should be encouraging people to use public transport, the Government are doing the exact opposite.”
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The Government is looking to cut costs in the rail industry after offering a significant amount of financial support during the Covid pandemic.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) say that under new plans, passengers who are unable to purchase a ticket will be able to buy one during the journey, at a ticket office en route or at their destination.
Burnham added that the move is symptomatic of further steps towards a cashless society.
“It looks like the Government is putting railways in managed decline”, he said.
People queue at a rail ticket office
“Many of the ticket machines up here [Manchester] are cashless, and I know this is an issue you’ve been raising on GB News.
“What are we saying to people who don’t have bank accounts or cards? Are we going to fight these people off the railway?
“We’ve got to fight back here. We can’t accept this. We’ve lost post offices and other services from communities, why should we accept that ticket offices could be ripped out of communities? I don’t accept it.
“I’m fighting back for older people, disabled people, and anyone who cares about the rail network.
“This goes beyond party politics. Are we just going to become a country that becomes nameless, soulless, cashless?
“Are we the kind of country that says ‘the 12 per cent doesn’t matter?’ I don’t want to live in a country like that. We’re better than that.
“Britain feels pretty broken to me. We’ve got railways, in total chaos, being cut beyond the bare bones. When are we going to fight back?”
The RDG said proposals to close ticket offices are part of plans to make the railway “sustainable in the long run”, adding rail revenues are still 30 per cent below pre-pandemic levels.
The Department for Transport claim proposals were not about cutting jobs, but instead about modernising the railway to ensure its survival.