North Wales councils and businesses hit out over planned closure of rail station booking offices in England
A multi-organisation partnership has spoken out against controversial plans to drastically reduce the number of staffed booking office provision proposed by train operators in England under the control of the UK Department for Transport (DfT).
Growth Track 360, which includes business and local authority leaders from North Wales, the Wirral and Cheshire West and Chester, has registered its objection under the ‘national’ provision of the
consultation being run by consumer watchdog Transport Focus.
Earlier this summer it was announced that almost all of the 1,007 remaining ticket offices in England could close within the next three years.
Currently, only 12% of tickets are sold at ticket offices, compared to 82% in the mid-90s.
The changes aim to “modernise the sector, reflecting the ‘generational shift’ in ticket purchasing behaviours and improving passenger experiences across the network.”
Although assurances have been given that Wales will not follow in closing ticket stations, there is growing concern about the impact the closures in England will have on cross-border travel.
Local operators covered by the present consultation are primarily Avanti West Coast and Northern.
However the Growth Track 360 area is also affected by proposals from London Northwestern Railway and TransPennine Express.
Neither Transport for Wales Rail Services (ultimately controlled by the Welsh Government) or Merseyrail (ultimately controlled by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority) are seeking changes to booking offices within their respective stations.
Growth Track 360 Board Member and Deputy Leader of Wrexham Council, Councillor David Bithell, said: “We agree with the many organisations, stakeholders and individuals arguing that staffed booking office provision provides confidence and reassurance to rail users with a wide range of disabilities as well as older customers less familiar with online retailing systems.
“We reject the comparison between the national rail ticketing system with its many thousands of different fares and restrictions and the Transport for London model where the norm of simple, zonal tickets was used as justification for booking offices to be removed.”
Growth Track 360 Vice Chair and Leader of Flintshire Council, Councillor Ian Roberts, said: “The loss of customer convenience and amenity through the proposed decimation of staffed booking offices in DfT-controlled operators flies directly in the face of our objectives and is in graphic contrast to the positions of the Devolved Administrations of Wales and Liverpool.
“If implemented, the proposals would leave inequality of provision across our geography along with confusion for customers – especially tourists – believing themselves to be using a GB-wide system with generally consistent retailing and customer service approaches.”
Ashley Rogers, GT360 Business Representative, Chief Executive, North Wales Mersey Dee Business Council, said: “Growth Track 360 seeks investment in improving cross-border rail to accelerate growth in the existing regional powerhouse economy.
“We wish to draw in business investment through enhanced public transport and similarly boost the attractiveness of world class tourism destinations in North Wales, Cheshire and Liverpool City Region.
“Closing staffed, rail booking offices fundamentally weakens the quality of service for the leisure and business user.
“When we need to be encouraging users back to rail after Covid and reducing our carbon emissions, this programme of closures does exactly the opposite.” Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com