Public consultations on rail ticket office closures went live on 5th July, initially only open for a mere 21 days. Thanks to the fantastic efforts of our community of disabled campaigners, the deadline was extended to 1st September. In total, it’s estimated around three-quarters of a million people responded, making it the most responded-to public consultation of all time.
On 31 October the rail passenger watchdogs officially rejected proposals to close hundreds of train ticket offices across the UK. The government also changed course, and rail operators have been instructed to scrap the plans completely. This is a huge victory for our entire community., and it was the biggest response to any consultation in British history!
Thank you to everyone who wrote to their MP, posted online, and spread the word in their local communities. This generated enough public uproar and political pressure that MPs from all parties have spoken out against the closures. Together, we have taken action, and once again, we've won! But we are not finished yet...
Though this is the best possible outcome at this stage, we are appalled that the plans got this far in the first place. Going forward we want to see wholesale reform of the rail industry, so that ticket offices, station staff, and disabled people's voices are better protected, and that disastrous policies like this can't get off the ground again.
A timeline of our campaign
In early 2022, Government plans for the mass shut down of rail ticket offices across the UK were leaked to the press. Since then, we have been meeting with key decision makers in government and industry, as well as other DPO’s, unions, and campaigning groups to voice our opposition to these shocking plans.
August 2022: Joint letter to the Secretary of State
We wrote directly to the then Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, to set out our concerns about the proposals. The letter was cosigned by 15 organisations representing Deaf and disabled people, and addressed the impacts ticket office closures would have on our community’s ability to access rail services.
The Minister’s response failed to address many of our central points, arguing that shutting ticket offices would actually improve accessibility by moving ticketing staff into ‘multifunctional roles’ where they can travel around the station to assist passengers.
November 2022: Raising voices across the rail industry
Ticket office closures have also been a key part of the dispute between rail operators and unions, and the RMT have been raising the alarm on how these plans will affect disabled people as well. Alongside the RMT and other disabled people’s organisations we sent an open letter to Conservative MPs, calling on them to oppose the policies of their government.
Summer 2023: Taking our campaign to power holders
We’ve met with decision-makers across the rail industry, including the Rail Delivery Group, Office of Rail and Road, and the passenger bodies (Transport Focus and London TravelWatch) to make clear that we will continue to fight against these reforms. Yet the consultations still went ahead, so we stepped up our campaign and asked for the public’s support.
July and September 2023: Parliamentary debates
MPs from across the parties challenged the Rail Minister on the plans. In July, Ian Mearns MP cited the work of charities and Disabled People’s Organisations including Transport for All in speaking out in opposition. At a second debate in September, Marion Fellows MP raised concerns about how disabled people’s concerns weren’t being heard, Chris Stephens MP highlighted issues with ticket purchasing for cash users, and Shadow Transport Minister Stephen Morgan MP praised the disabled community for providing an “incredible demonstration of widespread opposition”.
July to September 2023: Co-ordinating a mass consultation response campaign
Given the size and scale of the proposed changes, with such profound impacts on disabled people, it is staggering that disabled people themselves and the organisations representing us did not have the opportunity to meaningfully influence the policy on a National scale. Instead, individual proposals went to public consultation, with little promotion or effort in making the information widely available and accessible. We wanted to show the enormity of public opposition to these proposals, and co-ordinated a mass response. We created a template and guidelines to make it as easy as possible for people to respond.
Together with 90 organisations representing disabled people and allies, we submitted a detailed letter of objection to the proposals. Click here to read our letter of objection in full.
July to October 2023: Garnering support through press and media
The Ticket Office closures story has been widely reported in the press, and we’ve worked hard to ensure the accessibility angle is included and that disabled voices are platformed, speaking to outlets including ITV, The Telegraph, The Mirror, and The Guardian, ensuring we reach a diverse range of audiences to mobilise support.
September 2023: Giving evidence to a Parliamentary inquiry
After the public backlash to the proposals, the Transport Committee decided to reopen their inquiry into accessible transport and hold a session specifically focussed on ticket office closures. We were invited to give oral evidence in Parliament, and took the opportunity to make our position loud and clear.
Following the session the Committee wrote in strong terms to the Transport Minister describing the ticket office proposals as going “too far, too fast”, and warning that the change “risks excluding some passengers from the railway”.
September 2023: Freedom of Information request
As the public consultation on closing thousands of rail ticket offices across England drew to a close, we were dismayed that our request to see the Equality and Impact Assessment made by the Government of the proposals was rejected, as was our subsequent appeal.
October 2023: Supporting Judicial Review into the consultation process
We were proud to act as a witness in a case brought by Transport for All member Doug Paulley, and Sarah Leadbetter. This action drew attention to the inaccessibility of the consultation, and acts as a reminder that everyone must have a say when decisions are made.
October 31 2023: Victory!
The rail passenger watchdogs officially rejected the proposals to close hundreds of train ticket offices across the UK. The government also changed course, and rail operators have been instructed to scrap the plans completely.
Find out more about the barriers disabled people face to travelling by rail.
“Frankly insulting” – our Campaigns Manager condemns ticket office closures in Parliament inquiry
We told the Transport Committee that there was little faith in the ticket office consultation process among the disabled community.
Find out more about our impact, and how you can be a part of it.