PM says closing railway ticket offices is ‘right thing for British public’

The proposed mass closure of railway station ticket offices is “the right thing for the British public”, Rishi Sunak suggested.

The Prime Minister was questioned on his trip to India about plans by train operators to shut nearly all station ticket offices in England amid pressure from the Government to cut costs.

He said: “It’s right that our railway network is modernised and is put on a sustainable footing.

“That’s the right thing for the British public and British taxpayers and recognises the fact that I think only one in 10 tickets are sold currently in ticket offices.

“But this is actually fundamentally, as far as I understand it, about getting people out of ticket offices on to platforms and in stations where they can help people in different ways, which is where the help is required.

“Those are exactly all the things that we’ll be discussing in the consultation and it wouldn’t be right for me to pre-empt the response or what the conclusions are.”

The plan has sparked fierce criticism from opposition politicians, trade unions, disability groups and public transport organisations.

More than 680,000 responses were submitted to the consultation, which ended on September 1.

Concerns were raised by the public and “stakeholders” around the impact on accessibility, safety and security, issues with ticket machines and how stations will be staffed in future, according to watchdogs Transport Focus and London TravelWatch.

The organisations are analysing the proposals and consultation responses before responding to train operators by the end of October.

If the watchdogs object to plans to close certain station offices, the relevant operator can refer their proposals to Transport Secretary Mark Harper for a final decision.

An online petition calling for ticket offices to remain open passed 100,000 signatures on Friday, meaning the issue can be considered for debate in Parliament.