Sunak told to ‘come clean’ over rail ticket office closures after whistleblower admits cost-cutting plan

Sunak and a rail ticket office

Sunak told to ‘come clean’ over rail ticket office closures after whistleblower admits cost-cutting plan

Oliver Trapnell

By Oliver Trapnell

Published: 24/08/2023

- 14:49

Updated: 24/08/2023

- 14:56

The closures are expected to affect over 950 offices across England

Rishi Sunak has been urged to “come clean” over the Government’s plan to shut almost every railway ticket office across England after a whistleblower admitted the plan was about cost-cutting.

Ministers insisted the cuts were being made to help free up rail station staff so that they can be of more help on platforms.

Despite the closures reportedly shutting over 950 offices across England, the Government has yet to acknowledge the dramatic impact it will have on those who still use cash and those who need help operating ticket machines.

Petition groups have predicted the changes will affect millions of people who cannot use or do not have access to smartphones or computers and only have access to cash.


People queue at a rail ticket office

People queue at a rail ticket office


Speaking on the plans, one whistleblower admitted the Government instructed railway firms to draw up the proposals in a bid to save money.

“This isn’t being done to help passengers, it’s about cutting costs,” the whistleblower told the Mirror.

Speaking late last night, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh called on Rishi Sunak to “come clean”.

She added: “This sham process is being driven every step of the way by Tory Ministers.


A rally protesting against the closure

Mick Lynch speaks at a rally against the closure of ticket offices


“It’s time they stop dodging accountability, and come clean on the damage these closures will do.

“Railroading this botched plan through, without consideration for passengers or staff, only risks exacerbating the managed decline of the rail network.”

When questioned in the House of Commons about the potential job losses involved in the cuts, Rail Minister Huw Merriman said: “The aim is to redeploy staff away from the ticket office, where not so many people are seen, to the front of the station where all passengers can access them.

“That will particularly benefit those who have accessibility and disability challenges.”

Mick Lynch

Mick Lynch peaking at a protest


Merriman was then pressed on whether the measure was really about cutting staff but added: “This is ultimately a matter for the train operators, but they have taken the view that their staff can be better redeployed across the station concourse platform and barrier, accessing 100 per cent of passengers, rather than the 10 per cent nationally who purchase their tickets from a ticket office.

“Effectively, this is the railway catching up with the change in passenger behaviour and demand.”

The closures have also been opposed by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT).

Speaking to GB News at the union’s picket line at Hull Paragon Interchange last month, Regional Organiser Gaz Jackson said: “We’ve had over 100,000 signatures across the country with people supporting us on the online campaign.

“We’ve also got a post carding campaign, we’ve got a national campaign to try and get people writing to their MPs, and what we’re seeing is a mass return of people saying to us that ‘we don’t want this to happen’.

“It’s not just about selling tickets, they know it’s about assisting people that need the help, the vulnerable people, the disabled people.

“We want this railway to be accessible and affordable for everybody, and without a fully staffed station, it’s not going to be.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The rail industry’s consultations run until 1 September and are about enhancing the role of station workers to better support all passengers.

“No final decisions have been made.”

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