Ticket office closures would add to transport access woes


The possible closure of hundreds of ticket offices would make it “nigh on impossible” for many disabled people to travel by train, MPs have heard.

The closure of 675 ticket offices was recommended in a report by Sir Roy McNulty, which is currently being considered by the Department for Transport.

Labour MP Lisa Nandy, who secured this week’s debate on disabled people’s access to public transport, called on the government not to approve the proposals.

Nandy said disabled young people had spoken to her of the “indignity and humiliation” they faced when they tried to travel by train, such as being unable to get on and off trains because there were no ramps, or the ramps being too long or too short, or there being no staff available to operate them.

She called on the government to put more pressure on train and bus companies to improve access.

Nandy said that many campaigning organisations, including Transport for All, Whizz-Kidz and Scope, had expressed concerns about access to public transport.

She said: “Not only did they say that the situation is not getting better fast enough, but many are concerned that the situation is getting worse and not better.”

The disabled Conservative MP Paul Maynard pointed to the investigation into rail access carried out by the Trailblazers network of young disabled people, and a subsequent public hearing held by the all-party group on young disabled people.

He said: “Some dreadful cases came to light. Buses pulled away sharply with wheelchairs going everywhere, and passengers with imbalance issues were sent flying.

“We cannot have passengers being left on trains, and we cannot have staff members ignoring them at stations. We cannot have that attitude, but we must recognise that there is a problem because of the age of many of our trains, buses and so on.”

The Liberal Democrat MP Dr Julian Huppert said the “sheer lack of information and the complexity involved in finding information make it very hard” for disabled people to plan a long-distance journey on public transport.

Lilian Greenwood, Labour’s new shadow transport minister, said government cuts of 26 per cent to transport spending would cause “unaffordable fare rises” and route closures.

She said: “Disabled people, who are often on low incomes and especially reliant on public transport, will be hit even harder.”

Mike Penning, the Conservative junior transport minister, said the situation for disabled people was “fundamentally wrong, but it is not easy to resolve”.

He said: “Constituents need to complain to their MPs and their MPs should tell us. If that happens, perhaps we can have a service for the 21st century that everyone deserves.”

Transport for All (TfA), which represents London’s disabled and older transport users, said before the debate that it had urged the government to reject McNulty’s proposals to close ticket offices and cut the jobs of up to 1,000 station staff.

TfA said many disabled people cannot use trains without the assistance of staff, with many blind people relying on them to guide them to platforms, wheelchair-users needing assistance to board trains safely, and many disabled people requiring advice on planning an accessible journey.

Other disabled people cannot use ticket machines and rely on staff to help buy a ticket, said TfA.

13 October 2011

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