Banbury railway station's under threat ticket office now looks set to be saved

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Transport Secretary Mark Harper has said that train operators have been asked to withdraw plans to close railway ticket office after advice from watchdog Transport Focus

The railway ticket office at Banbury railway station, which was under threat of closure, now looks set to be saved.

This comes after the UK government told train operators to withdraw plans to close ticket offices in England after a transport watchdog objected to plans for widespread closures.

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Early this year, plans to close the vast majority of ticket offices in English stations – including Banbury – were brought forward by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) and train operators.

Banbury train station where Chiltern Railways had plans to remove a staffed ticket office.Banbury train station where Chiltern Railways had plans to remove a staffed ticket office.
Banbury train station where Chiltern Railways had plans to remove a staffed ticket office.

But today (Tuesday) Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: “Following analysis of the 750,000 responses to the consultation and in-depth discussions with train companies Transport Focus is objecting to the proposals to close ticket offices. Significant amendments and changes have been secured by the watchdog – for example, reverting to existing times when staff will be on hand at many stations. Some train companies were closer than others in meeting our criteria.

“However, serious overall concerns remain about how potentially useful innovations, such as ‘welcome points’ would work in practice. We also have questions about how the impact of these changes would be measured and how future consultation on staffing levels will work.

“Some train companies were unable to convince us about their ability to sell a full range of tickets, handle cash payments and avoid excessive queues at ticket machines. Passengers must be confident they can get help when needed and buy the right ticket in time for the right train."

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This will please many Banbury rail users who had concerns that the closing of the ticket offices would mean that there would be no one available to offer travel advice or guidance on tickets.

The closure would also have caused a significant loss of facilities and support offered to disabled, deaf and older people.

One elderly traveller told the Banbury Guardian: “The ticket office staff tell you straight away which the cheapest and quickest way is to get from A to B. I had to get my Senior Rail Card from the ticket office after a horrendous experience online in which they took £70 from my account without me knowing it was app-only. Banbury ticket office got it sorted for me.

“Closing ticket offices is going to seriously disadvantage the elderly – some of the people who need help the most.”

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Louise Rubin, head of policy at disability equality charity Scope, said: “This is a victory for the hundreds of thousands of disabled people who called out the absurdity of closing ticket offices.

“We’re pleased the Government has halted these plans in their tracks, but they can't stop here. One in four of us is disabled. Government must now create long-overdue changes so that every disabled person can use our transport system with confidence."

MP for Banbury Victoria Prentis said: “I know many constituents were concerned by train operators’ proposals to close train station ticket offices.

“Following an assessment of the feedback received from passengers, accessibility groups and stakeholders, it had become apparent that train operators’ proposals would not meet the highest quality of service for all customers.

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“Ministers have therefore informed train operators that their proposals to close ticket offices should not proceed. I know this will come as welcome news to all those who rely on our ticket offices in Banbury"