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Letter to Transport Minister

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

Thanks to all of those who shared their concerns with me about the Conservatives plan to close Wakefield Westgate ticket office.

I've again written to the Gov to re-think these plans. Some operators have admitted many stations will be left without any staff assistance at all.

Plain text:

Dear Secretary of State,

I am writing to you following my letter of 5 July to express concern about the plans to close ticket offices at railway stations, including at Wakefield Westgate in my constituency – a station which has 2 million passengers passing through each year.

Over the last few weeks, I have had discussions with local ticket office staff and unions, as well as receiving emails and letters from constituents outlining their concerns.

I know many of my constituents have participated in the consultation through Transport Focus but given the urgency of the situation and the role that the Department for Transport will now take, I am writing to you with a summary of the concerns that have been raised with me.

Accessibility for the elderly and disabled

Many of the residents who have contacted me are either elderly or disabled and have real concerns about the impact the closure would have on them.

I know that the Royal National Institute of Blind People has said the mass closure of rail ticket offices would have a hugely detrimental impact on blind and partially sighted people’s ability to buy tickets and arrange assistance, as well as to travel independently.

This has been borne out in the comments I have received from a range of constituents with various needs. It is also worth noting that ticket offices provide more services than just selling tickets. They provide travel advice for customers about the best (and most accessible) route and book assistance where necessary. It is unclear how these services would be provided under the proposals.

Those with hearing loss would also be impacted as ticket offices are fitted with induction loops for those with hearing aids. Without those, and in a setting with higher noise levels from passing trains, those hard of hearing would find conversations with ticket staff on the platform much more difficult.

Reliability of ticket machines

I have also had several replies relating to the ticketing machines available at Wakefield Westgate and at other stations.

These machines have been unreliable and out of service recently and have a poor reputation among local train passengers. In the event that the ticket machines were unusable, this would put a huge pressure on the remaining station staff to sell tickets as well as carry out the other functions that they would need to. It is also unclear that when the ticket machines do not work, whether passengers would be able to pay the roving station staff with cash without financial penalty.

Staff have also raised concerns with me about the quality of the ticket machines and their concerns that they do not always give passengers the best and/or cheapest option to travel with, especially for more vulnerable passengers. Their inability to manipulate the ticket machines to provide tailored journey options proves why the retention of physical staff at a ticket office remains so important.

Impact on jobs

The ticket office staff at Wakefield Westgate are very popular, rooted in the community and have built up trust with passengers over many years – the comments I have received from constituents are testament to that.

However, it is still unclear what the impact will be on ticket office staff at Wakefield Westgate. Under the proposals from LNER, I understand they are still to be mapped onto new jobs and this uncertainty is obviously deeply unsettling for them.

During a cost of living crisis, the ticket office staff have been fantastic at making sure passengers get the best deal available to them. They can sell a full range of railcards and passes at a time when people most need support from organisations and businesses to keep costs low.

However, under these proposals, the future of their jobs is uncertain, the machines will not necessarily sell fares at the cheapest price, and passengers will have to travel to Leeds or Doncaster to purchase a railcard or pass in person.

I remain deeply concerned about the plans and it is clear that the public are too – with approaching half a million responses to Transport Focus and London TravelWatch. While I am pleased that the consultation has now run for several weeks and people have had the opportunity to share their views on these plans, it was wrong of your Department to try to ignore passenger and staff concerns in the first place.

These plans are wrong for Wakefield and for the rail network more widely. I don’t believe that they are about modernisation, but are part of a plan which is seeing public transport services run into the ground, with cancellations at record highs, basic services such as wi-fi potentially being taken away, and with legislation to reform the network being abandoned.

I urge you to re-think these plans and to save our railway ticket offices, such as at Wakefield Westgate station.

Yours sincerely,

Simon Lightwood MP

Member of Parliament for Wakefield


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I have signed the petition to save our Ticket Offices. I hope this Government sees sense.

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