Don't forget to fight for Rugby station ticket office

The widespread protests over plans to shut the ticket office at Rugby station and most others across the country has seen the deadline to have a say extended – but, crucially, the plans have not changed.
Rugby railway station. Photo: Google Street ViewRugby railway station. Photo: Google Street View
Rugby railway station. Photo: Google Street View

The opposition to the closures grabbed the national headlines as people saw what the government was hoping to achieve through the rail operators.

But the decision to extend the deadline to September 1 has seen the issue slip down the agenda – with the risk it will be out of sight and out of mind.

And Rugby’s ticket office team – with a long-standing reputation for helping people find the best routes and best tickets in a way apps and machines can rarely achieve – remains at risk.

It is operated by Avanti West Coast which has its own plans – but they follow the national line that ticket office staff will be moved to the concourse and help people buy from machines and with their travel needs.

The prospect of that being an improvement for travellers at Rugby has been greeted with widespread scorn, with MP Mark Pawsey among those who have spoken out against the idea.

With the ticket barriers at Rugby being close to the main doors, there is a regular flow of people in and out of the building, so how the proposed customer ambassadors will find the time or space to deal with complex enquiries remains a mystery.

Cynics have suggested that those who either can’t or don’t want to use a machine or app would have their needs more effectively met by having staff based in a fixed position rather than passengers having to look for them – and their base could be called... a ticket office.

Avanti’s plan is to close all its ticket offices – that also includes the likes of Coventry, Birmingham International and even Birmingham New Street, which is a Network Rail-run station with Avanti as lead retailer.

It says there will be some phasing but intends that all will be gone in three years.

The threat to the ticket offices has been one of the issues campaigned in by rail unions but had little attention until the plans were confirmed in early July, along with the original consultation deadline of last week.

The RMT said: “We all know that closing ticket offices will make the railway less safe, secure and accessible and this is part of the government and rail companies’ plans to de staff the railway.

“Together we need to mobilise to defeat, dilute and delay these plans.”

The accessibility issue has also been at the heart of the opposition.

Head of policy at the charity Scope, Louise Rubin, said when the proposals were first announced: “We've had little reassurance that these changes will make our rail network more accessible for disabled people.

“We're deeply concerned that they will result in more people being stranded without the support they need.

“It’s already far too difficult for disabled people to travel on public transport in this country.

“There are 16 million disabled people in the UK. It’s vital that ministers are transparent with disabled people about their plans. And disabled people are fully consulted and listened to.”