THE FIGHT to prevent the closure of Stratford railway station’s ticket office continues to gather steam.
Protesters are set to meet at the railway station on Friday (September 1) in opposition to the proposed closure on what will be the final day of the extended consultation period on the highly unpopular move.
Meeting at Stratford station at 5.30pm, the protesters will demand that the ticket office remains open for the benefit of all station users – especially the thousands of visitors and tourists – some with limited English – disabled passengers, older travellers and those without access to the internet.
The Shakespeare Line Rail User Group (SLRUG) has already written to the Department for Transport expressing its opposition to the contentious plans, which are geared at “modernising” the way train tickets are sold at stations. The group has labelled the move “discriminatory” and entirely unsuitable for a tourist station like Stratford.
The plans would see all the remaining station ticket offices closed across the country, including the one at Stratford station, over the next three years and ticket office employees instead brought out from behind the counter to assist customers on the platform.
The closures have come about following a call from transport secretary Mark Harper for train operators, including West Midlands Railway, to cut costs.
If given the go-ahead, the plan would see stations including Stratford serviced by mobile teams who would move between stations and be deployed to offer extra help where needed.
Prospective Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, Dr Manuela Perteghella, told the Observer that despite the consultation period not yet being over, it appeared Stratford ticket office was already closed.
She said: “I went to the station today and the ticket office was closed with a ‘To Let’ notice posted on the ticket office window. It is clear the rail operator had already made up its mind and the consultation is a total sham. Its actions have made a mockery of the consultation process, underlining the contempt the government and train operators have for the general public and their customers.
“Stratford is one of the UK’s most visited towns and one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations and its station needs a ticket office able to issue tickets, provide advice and offer assistance.
“More than one in eight people in this country do not have access to computer services and electronic devices for many reasons, including their personal ability or choice and the cost of devices. Older passengers and disabled residents too are being discriminated against by this outrageous decision.
“Please come and join us next Friday and make your voice heard.”
A spokesperson for West Midlands Railway said it needed to evolve with its customers and the proposal would mean staff being more visible and available where customers most need them on concourses and platforms.
The spokesperson added they would be looking at ways of supporting customers when it came to digital technology to ensure no-one was left behind.