Andy Burnham warns closing ticket offices could be illegal

‘This is really wrong on so many levels, but we're going to take a stand.’

Andy Burnham

Hundreds of ticket offices across the UK are set to permanently close over the next three years. The plans to axe up to 1,000 offices were unveiled by the government this week, following proposals from the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), an industry body which represents private railway operators.

The announcement comes despite warnings that the move is likely to increase crime rates, make travelling more difficult for the elderly and vulnerable, and prompt wider industrial action.

The busiest stations will still have physical counters, but the likes of London Marylebone, London Waterloo, Birmingham New Street and Manchester Piccadilly, are among those confirmed for the cuts.

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has voiced his opposition towards the closures. Around 50 offices are set to close in Greater Manchester, and the mayor warns that the move could be illegal.

Speaking to BBC Radio Manchester, Burnham said the closures would “further destroy” trust in rail services in the north.

“This is really wrong on so many levels, but we’re going to take a stand.

“I will be writing to the Transport Secretary today and I think it is likely, in my view, that there’s a strong case that this process is not legal,” he said.

Noting how ticket office staff provide advice for passengers, reassurance for older people and assistance for disabled passengers at stations, the Manchester Mayor expressed concern that the proposal has failed to assess the impact it will have on older and vulnerable passengers.

“The provisional advice I’ve got is that the train operators, one of them in particular, should have done, again, a provisional equality impact assessment.

“Particularly for the impact on older people or disabled people who will probably be the most impacted by this decision. They didn’t do it,” he said.

The Labour Mayor continued that if he cannot stop the closures, he would be making the case again for local stations to be run by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM).

The Department of Transport (DoT) said those with accessibility needs “are always supported.”

A DoT spokesman said: “This is not about cutting jobs – no station which is currently staffed will be unstaffed as a result of these proposed reforms. We have been consistently honest about the need for our railways to modernise if they are going to survive.”

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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