A cross party group of MPs have condemned plans to close train ticket offices, dismissing them as radical and saying they go “too far, too fast”.
Iain Stewart, who serves as the Conservative chair of the transport select committee, has written to Huw Merriman, the rail minister, voicing concern that the plans to close 870 booking offices risk excluding whole demographics of passengers.
The cross-party group of MPs argued for the proposals to be “carefully piloted” in limited areas before being introduced.
The letter reads: “The proposals as put forward by train operating companies in this consultation go too far, too fast, towards a situation that risks excluding some passengers from the railway.
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“At a minimum, changes this radical should be carefully piloted in limited areas and evaluated for their effect on all passengers before being rolled out. This would allow for the alternative proposals, which at present are too vague, to be properly understood.”
Stewart continued: “We have heard many reasonable questions raised about the practicality of alternative staffing arrangements and alternative retail arrangements for people with all kinds of disabilities.
More than 680,000 people responded to a consultation on the plans. It is the biggest ever response to a public consultation. Transport Focus, the industry watchdog, now has until October 31 to examine the responses to the consultation.
And the closures have been widely criticised by Conservative MPs.
Stewart said: “We hope and expect that the consultation will ultimately lead to much better proposals that will reflect the needs of all passengers.”
His letter added: “The lack of information and analysis made available by operators, the Rail Delivery Group [which represents operating companies] and, especially the Department for Transport about the cumulative impact of the proposals on the rail network has been unacceptable.
“Campaigners and individuals have been left to do the considerable detective work of checking whether claims made by operators stack up against the detail of the proposals.”
He said there was “no overall data on customer interactions with staff other than for ticket purchases, which our evidence tells us are immensely valued by passengers”.
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