A letter signed by nearly 40 disabled supporters’ associations has warned the government that plans to close nearly 1,000 ticket offices across England could cause many disabled fans to stop attending live sports events.
The letter from disabled-led charity Level Playing Field (LPF) said the closure plans could have a “hugely detrimental effect” on the ability of many disabled people to attend live sport and would be an “actively regressive step”.
LPF, which represents disabled sports fans in England and Wales, wrote to the government after receiving “distressing reports and concerns” about the likely impact of the proposed closures.
Leyton Orient fan Peter Blay told LPF: “Even now, if the booking office is closed there is no support for use of [the] ticket machine or problems at barriers.
“There are many who cannot use internet, or the machines are inaccessible for.
“These will be excluded from going to live sports events, give up using trains and become isolated.”
Another football supporter, Birmingham City fan Symone Ingram, said: “If proposed ticket office closures go ahead, we will probably never use a train ever again.
“Instead of making something that can already be difficult, better, they are choosing to make it impossible.”
And Wolves fan Alan Wigley described how he was only able to complete a trip to Wolverhampton because of assistance from rail staff, when he needed to use a different route because the rail line was blocked.
The LPF letter, from its chair, Tony Taylor, says the closures would “discourage many disabled sports fans from participating in attending live sporting events altogether”.
His letter says: “Railway ticket offices are vital in assisting disabled fans with their travel arrangements.
“These staff members provide a safe, accessible, reliable and inclusive environment where disabled sports fans can obtain information, purchase tickets, and receive assistance tailored to their specific access requirements.
“By closing these offices, we risk undoing the progress made in promoting accessibility and disability independence within our society for over 10 million disabled people in England.”
The letter, signed by 38 disabled supporters’ associations, has been sent to Lucy Frazer, the secretary of state for culture, media and sport, and copied to the Department for Transport and the industry body, the Rail Delivery Group.
At the end of the consultation period, Transport Focus and London TravelWatch will have 35 days to examine the responses before deciding whether to object to any of the proposed closures.
If any of the train companies decide to ignore those objections, the disputes will be referred to transport secretary Mark Harper.
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