This week, train companies officially announced plans to close the majority of ticket offices in England. Only a small number in the busiest train stations will remain, with passengers instead encouraged to book their tickets online or pay for them via self-service machines.
Train companies are giving the public just three weeks to understand and feedback on these plans.
At Guide Dogs, we are deeply concerned about the impact this will have on the journeys made by travellers with sight loss. Ticket offices are a clear and consistent source of information and help, especially for people with disabilities.
Crucially, many ticket vending machines are simply inaccessible for people with sight loss, as they rely on silent touchscreens. It is also often not possible to buy a full range of tickets or apply some discounts via ticketing machines.
These changes are being proposed by train companies that primarily operate in England, however these changes will impact passengers from Scotland and Wales that travel to or via England. Additionally, Avanti is proposing to close its ticket office at Glasgow Central.
Guide dog owner Penny Hefferan has spoken about her concerns.
She said, "I regularly travel by train to different places with my guide dog Questa, and am always reassured by the information and assistance I receive from staff at my local ticket office. Having a specific location at the station where I know I can find help is so important. I have no idea how I will locate someone who is moving around the station if I need assistance.
"The impact these proposed changes will have on my confidence will be huge. At the moment, I know that if I need help, it will be there. These changes will mean that I could find myself in a situation where I struggle to get about, which will mean that I and others in my situation won’t feel able to travel as we do now, potentially impacting on our ability to get about as a sighted person would."
How you can get involved
The proposal for each train station is being consulted on individually and you need to provide feedback via one of two passenger watchdogs; Transport Focus for stations in England outside of London, and London TravelWatch for stations in London.
We encouraging people with sight loss who travel by train to share their thoughts and experiences, to show train operators the impact these proposed changes will have. You can take part in our campaign action via this link.
The closing date for responses is 26 July.
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