Luton MPs call on stand against plans to close railway station’s ticket office in the town

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This comes as railway operators made proposals to change how tickets are sold

Luton’s MPs have started petitions to save ticket offices at Luton and Leagrave railways stations after operators announced plans to close nearly 1,000 offices nationwide.

Luton South MP, Rachel Hopkins, has started a petition after a public consultation over plans to close ticket offices began on Wednesday (July 5) on behalf of rail operators across the country. The consultation will run until July 26.

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Meanwhile Sarah Owen, MP for Luton North, has created a survey for the proposal’s potential effect on Leagrave.

Station exterior (Picture: Olivia Preston, National World)Station exterior (Picture: Olivia Preston, National World)
Station exterior (Picture: Olivia Preston, National World)

The plans could see Luton and Leagrave stations’ ticket office axed and replaced with mobile ‘multifunctional’ staff. Under these proposals, passengers will need to buy tickets either online or at ticket vending machines.

And while Thameslink has said the stations will continue to be staffed, Rachel Hopkins has said she is concerned the changes will have a negative impact on staff and passengers.

In a statement released today, she pointed to reports of ticket vending machines not accepting cash, which she said will disproportionately impact elderly and disabled people – and added that the machines also pose functionality barriers to disabled passengers, including those with visual impairments.

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The proposals show that, if approved, passengers at Luton Railway Station would have mobile “multifunctional” staff on hand from 5.30am to 11.15pm on weekends and Saturdays, and 6.45am to 9.45pm on Sundays. Currently, the ticket office is open from 5.45am to 9.45pm on weekdays, 5.45am to 10pm on Saturdays and 6.45am to 9.45pm on Sundays.

Thameslink’s website states: “In-person assistance would still be available to help customers use machines and advise on the best value-for-money fares.”

And it explained that station opening hours would remain the same if plans went ahead and added: “No stations that have staff today will become unstaffed.”

But Rachel Hopkins said she was ‘deeply concerned’ by the potential closure. She said: “Luton passengers and staff are really worried about the impact this proposal will have on the ability to buy tickets, on accessibility, passenger safety, and the job security of staff.”

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Meanwhile, Sarah Owen said she ‘stands against further job losses in Luton’ and called the news ‘the most recent in a long line of Tory attacks’ on the railways. She said: “Closing our ticket office in Leagrave would make life even more difficult for disabled people who are still waiting for reasonable accessibility to the station; for elderly and vulnerable people who may struggle with ticket machines; and for anyone who just needs a helpful chat to answer questions about their journey.”

She added: “A friendly face in a ticket office can really take the stress out of travelling. It’s time the Government started recognising the real people behind those jobs, whose livelihoods depend on doing the work they do.”

Ticket office hours at Leagrave are currently 6am to 7.30pm on weekdays, 6am to 7.20pm on Saturdays and 7.45am to 5.45pm on Sunday. This would change to ticket assistance hours of 5.45am to 9.10pm on weekdays, 6am to 9.15pm on Saturdays and 8.35pm to 4.35pm on Sundays.

The proposals also include Luton Airport Parkway station – but while Rachel Hopkins has said she does not want any office to close, she is focussing on Luton as it she believes it will “significantly impact her constituents, given many travellers just transit through Luton Airport Parkway.”

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She is also concerned about how this may impact any future redevelopment of the station.

Luton Airport Parkway's ticket office is currently open from 6am to 12.30am on weekdays, 6.30am to midnight on Saturdays and 7.30am to midnight on Sundays. Under the proposed changes, ticket assistance hours would be 24-hours on all days.

Thameslink’s website stated that the proposed changes reflect the changes in how tickets are bought, with ‘a reduction in ticket office use’. According to the operator, most tickets are now bought online or from ticket machines. It said: “In fact, nine out of 10 tickets are now purchased outside of traditional ticket offices.”

People can sign Rachel Hopkin’s petition here and respond by email to the consultation here.