Yesterday it was revealed that plans to close hundreds of train ticket offices in England have been reversed.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the Government had asked train operators to withdraw their proposals to close ticket offices because they failed to meet high passenger standards.
“Ticket offices and frontline rail staff play an essential role in making train travel – and in turn reaching work, appointments, and socialising – possible for so many people, especially people with a vision impairment. Guide Dogs welcomes this decision, which has come after an unprecedented public outcry from a wide range of groups and organisations. We made our concerns clear with the train companies and the government and helped people respond to the consultations in their areas. Guide Dogs look forward to working with the Government and train operators on the next stages, and to continue to address the barriers too many passengers with a vision impairment face when using trains to travel, which prevent them from living their lives independently.”
A Guide Dogs spokesperson
Previous polling from Guide Dogs earlier this year found that nearly three-quarters of adults with a vision impairment feared the planned proposals would leave them feeling isolated and unable to use the train service confidently.
While 78 per cent of people thought closing local train ticket offices would make accessing a train more difficult.
Penny Hefferan, Lived Experience Officer at Guide Dogs, said: “I regularly travel by train to different places with my guide dog Questa, so today’s decision to reverse the planned closure of ticket offices in England is reassuring, meaning I can continue to live my life independently. The ticket office at train station is so much more than just a place I can purchase a train ticket, it’s a specific location I know I can get the information and any assistance I need from staff.
“Self-service ticket machines are inaccessible for people with a vision impairment, so the prospect of having to rely on these or trying to locate station staff, who under the proposal would not be in one fixed location and would be moving around the station, was extremely concerning. It is so much more reassuring knowing there will be a fixed point that if I need information or assistance, I can find it. Everyone should be able to access the train network independently, and maintaining ticket offices allows more people with a disability the right to turn up and go travel.”
At the time Guide Dogs, alongside other charities, called on the Government to rethink the proposals to close ticket offices as ticket offices are a clear and consistent source of information and help, especially for people with disabilities. Crucially, many self-service ticket machines are inaccessible for people with sight loss, as they rely on silent touchscreens.
Plans to close train ticket offices in England will leave visually impaired passengers 'isolated and left behind’ according to a new Guide Dogs survey.
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.
Guide Dogs has been campaigning to have warning tactile surfaces installed on all train station platforms for several years.