Luton council opposes "disgraceful" plans to close railway station ticket offices
The removal of ticket offices from railway stations including Luton is “particularly galling” for the town and could lead to 2,000 job losses nationally, a meeting heard.
A consultation on the closure of ticket offices was announced by the Rail Delivery Group earlier this month, a full borough council meeting was told.
“It could mean more than 1,000 shut and a possible 2,000 job cuts all in the name of efficiency,” said Labour council leader and Lewsey councillor Hazel Simmons.
“The public consultation only runs for three weeks, closing on July 26. It’s important we respond urgently, hence this emergency resolution. It would appear the Rail Delivery Group has made its mind up before the consultation results are known.
“A national newspaper reported it has seen confidential documents sending out proposals by train operators to cut staff at stations by October this year. Passengers will be forced to purchase tickets online or at a vending machine, which will cause difficulties for many. There are 2,822 ticket types, according to the independent rail retailers’ association. Online purchase will be inaccessible for many people.
“Having staff visible is critical for passenger safety and to deal with any law breaking or anti-social behaviour, as well as health and safety issues.
“We need stations which are fit for the future, having waited for improvements to the central station and over the inaccessibility of Leagrave railway station. It would undermine this agenda if they’re allowed to further decline, while giving the government and train operators another reason to avoid investing in Luton stations.”
Liberal Democrat Barnfield councillor Amjid Ali said: “This is disgraceful for a town such as Luton, which requires more investment in our infrastructure and railway stations. They’re withdrawing resources and trying to make more money out of this, when the opposite should be happening.”
Labour Poets councillor Jacqui Burnett warned: “This is about increasing profit for the few at the expense of the many. Digital is being forced on us with no choice. I’m glad there’s cross-party support, because God help the next generation if we don’t fight. How much is a Smartphone? £1,000. We’re in a cost of living crisis and some people can’t afford that amount for a phone.”
Labour High Town councillor James Taylor agreed, adding: “This is particularly galling for us in Luton when we look at our decrepit station, which has been crying out for investment for decades. They’re taking away the one part of the station’s infrastructure which is good, the helpful and friendly staff behind the counter. I’m pleased Labour’s northern mayors are challenging the delivery group on this in court. This government knows the cost of everything, but the value of nothing.”
But Liberal Democrat Stopsley councillor David Wynn, while “fully supporting the motion”, explained: “As a council we’ve changed the way residents’ parking permits operate. We’ve taken away the same facility we’re condemning regarding the railways. We’re moving our residents on to Smartphones. No physical permits for anyone to easily check if someone parked in a bay has one.”
Councillors agreed a motion opposing the closures.