Government u-turn on ticket office closures and barriers to accessible public transport | Bolt Burdon Kemp Government u-turn on ticket office closures and barriers to accessible public transport | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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Government u-turn on ticket office closures and barriers to accessible public transport

This week, the Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, instructed rail operators to cancel plans to close rail ticket offices.

The proposals, put forward by the Government, had faced significant opposition from disability rights groups including from Disability Rights UK  and Transport for All. They argued that ticket offices are an important accessibility feature of train stations with many individuals relying on ticket offices to buy tickets, receive assistance, access site facilities, navigate the station safely and to plan journeys.

The consultation on rail ticket office closures was launched in July 2023 and received tremendous attention. It was the most responded-to public consultation of all time with 750,000 responses.

The campaign against ticket office closures extended beyond just the consultation. Two rail users with disabilities, Sarah Leadbetter and Doug Paulley, launched a legal challenge over the way the consultation was conducted. Their lawyers argued that that the consultation itself was not accessible, that the consultation period was not long enough, and that the consultation process ‘did not eliminate discrimination or advance equality of opportunity for disabled people’.

The influence from the consultation responses, the legal challenges and public pressure led to the decision taken by the Government to u-turn on this policy. This demonstrates the power individuals, businesses and campaigning groups can have on Government policy. At BBK we are passionate about campaigning for accessible transport for people with disabilities. We have previously run a campaign specifically looking into accessibility on the tube titled ‘Going the Extra Mile’ – you can find out more about that campaign here.

From our research and research from other organisations the statistics on accessibility on public transport are still very disappointing. A recent report (March 2022) from Motability on the ‘Transport Accessibility Gap’ highlighted some of the most concerning statistics on the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities when they travel:

  • People with disabilities report two to three times more difficulties when traveling than individuals without disabilities.
  • 1 in 5 reported being unable to travel due to the lack of appropriate transport options.
  • A wheelchair user’s commute can take up to 5 times longer than a non-disabled person in London.

Accessible transport is vital to ensure equal opportunities, freedom and independence for individuals with disabilities. Whilst the Government’s u-turn on the closure of ticket offices is welcomed, it is clear there is a great deal of work to be done to make our public transport more accessible.

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