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“Don’t close our train ticket offices!”: Organise members share their stories

When train companies announced plans to close ticket offices in England, over 40,000 Organise members came together to demand rail firms keep offices open.

Roxana Khan-Williams
July 27, 2023

Train companies argue that the mass closure of ticket offices will save money and modernise the railway. But Organise members from all walks of life are raising their voices to highlight the importance of keeping train ticket offices open, to protects jobs and keep our train stations safe and accessible for everyone.

The disproportionate impact that mass ticket office closures will have on disabled and vulnerable passengers cannot be understated, along with the devastating impact on workers who are proud to help people catch the right trains and get the right fares. Closures could result in 2,000 job losses, drastically reducing safety across the network.

Machines cannot replace human interaction and expertise in addressing passenger concerns. So Organise members are calling on all train operators to reverse the decision to close ticket offices and listen to the voices of employees and customers. In fact, 97% of Organise members disagree with the mass closure of ticket offices - here’s why.

Closing them disproportionately affects disabled and vulnerable people ♿

"I’m a wheelchair user and without the assistance of the station staff I can’t get onto the train, which makes rail travel impossible for me."

"I support people in wheelchairs with complex needs and learning disabilities. We need assistance regarding tickets and times as well as assistance getting on and off the trains. The staff are always helpful and some are even on first-name terms with our clients and have banter with them which enriches their day out. It makes them feel included in a world with enough barriers."

"Being sight impaired and immune-compromised, I rely on station staff for info on times and space on particular trains - I can't see departure boards from a distance."

"When supporting my disabled sister to travel by train, most journeys would have been impossible without the help and assistance of helpful staff."

"I am disabled and I'm frightened to travel alone. I feel safer if I know that there is a person at the station should I need help or if I feel vulnerable or frightened."

"I am blind and have a guide dog. Occasionally I have to travel from Leeds to London for work and I need to get my tickets from the train station office as I need to reserve an extra seat so I have room for my guide dog. I have tried doing this over the phone before and it was impossible. And obviously, it’s impossible to do it online so the ticket office is my only option. I don’t know what I will do if there’s no office or actual person to help me."

"I’m visually impaired with multiple other disabilities and I rely on train staff to help me get my ticket as ticket machines are inaccessible for people with a visual impairment. Please don’t take away what disabled people rely on."

"I recently met a gentleman going to Hereford and he said that he is unable to buy tickets online and does not have a smartphone and without booking office staff he would be unable to visit family and friends or attend the hospital in Birmingham. He had a kidney transplant so this worried him immensely.”

"This morning I am taking the train from Urmston to Oxford Road Manchester. I have stage 4 secondary breast cancer and am going for IV chemo. As time goes on my support needs increase to travel this way. The ticket office and train staff will be invaluable in helping us do this, particularly if we take a wheelchair."

"Traveling with my little granddaughter railway staff helps me and also helps my daughter who is disabled, three generations in my family who need assistance. You must cater for all and not blatantly discriminate."

"The ticket office was closed at my local station one day and two petrified ladies, both in wheelchairs appeared to have been abandoned. The conductor had wheeled them off the train to change to a connecting train. No one was around to ask and when the train arrived, I had to push them one at a time onto the train. Fortunately, a ramp was not needed otherwise they would have still been there. This is with just a shortage of staff, imagine the situation had there been none."

"I have a degenerative eye condition and already have some difficulty using ticket machines - even collecting pre-booked tickets can be tricky. It is so much less stressful being able to go to the ticket office and speak to a human being and encourages me to travel independently. I have also had occasions when it did not seem possible to purchase the most cost-effective ticket via the ticket machine - this happened recently when travelling with my partner but we were able to get a cheaper ticket from the ticket office than we could find on the machine."

Ticket machines can be complicated, inaccessible or broken 🧩

"The last time we used the ticket office the staff member helped us choose the ticket because we don't understand all the zones and time limits in London."

"I am a mature student and could only get the correct railcard for my status at a ticket office; I have also been left stranded on a long journey precisely because ticket offices were closed late at night and the information about supporting my onward journey was not passed on to a key station."

"Oddly, this is about the much-praised German transport system. By and large, they have completely "unmanned" stations so that in spite of having fluent German AND the possibility to have instructions in English I was often completely befuddled both on the underground and at train stations. Berlin Hauptbahnhof was the absolute worst ever - and I was with a German friend at that time. I would absolutely hate for our stations to be like that."

"Having to use machines rather than a ticket office is what prevents me from using the trains. There is no substitute for a human. Machinery is faceless and ill-maintained. Once ticket offices disappear, there will be no way back, even when it is proved how detrimental it is. Perhaps they'll bring them back with huge hikes in ticket prices to cover the cost of something they got rid of and enjoyed the financial rewards of doing so."

Station staff help to keep passengers secure and safe ❤️

"When I was a railwayman, I was often reminded by railway travellers: particularly lone women, how inhospitable unstaffed stations felt."

"I work in a ticket office and we do a lot more than sell tickets - we have prevented young children from meeting online groomers, we have prevented people travelling with the intention to die by suicide at a busier station, we have prevented people from becoming lost with dementia and alerting BTP, we have administered first aid when no other first aid is available, provided care and support for people with learning difficulties and crippling anxiety, and so many other factors to my job than just selling tickets, which I also do very well and save people money compared to online when people do not understand the ticket system."

"The ticket office staff have been vital to me many times, helping to reunite me with my belongings, helping me get home safely late at night by advising an alternate route after missing the last train. They've also helped me navigate the UK rail system with its dizzying array of restricted tickets on offer - and helped me select the most efficient, cost-effective ticket formy journey. They've also helped me with instant refunds when I selected the incorrect option on the machine.”

"Lots of experience of deteriorating customer service and safety by train companies, neglected trains and stations, vandalism, antisocial behaviour, risks for mental health patients and vulnerable people."

"Through no fault of my own, my bank card got stopped by the fraud dept. The card kept being declined and I needed to get home. All I had were coins to get the fare home, which I could purchase from the ticket office. If it hadn't been for that office being open, I would have experienced a major problem getting home. So, in the event that inconveniences arise such as this, what would people do without the open ticket offices? We need manned stations to cover all eventualities."

"As I have sleep apnea and a hearing problem. I wouldn't feel safe at stations any more."

"I experienced a hate crime once and being able to go to station staff and be reassured, listened and who called transport police was what made it all less gruesome."

"My father-in-law went to buy tickets to visit my brother-in-law and he felt ill and staff helped him get him a chair and some water until he felt well enough to leave."

"I was once on a train and got verbally abused by another passenger. Luckily a member of staff was around to help me."

Thanks to our people power, railway companies have extended the consultation on the planned ticket office closures! Organise members are sharing their stories directly with train companies to demand they keep ticket offices open. Join the campaign by emailing rail bosses now – we’ve made a handy template so it only takes a minute!

Click here to submit your opposition if you use rail services in England (not including London).

Click here to submit your opposition if you use rail services in London.


Roxana Khan-Williams

Roxy dives in to help Organise members start and win their campaigns. She can help you plan your tactics and build your confidence.