Plans to close almost all train ticket offices in England have been scrapped after a government U-turn on support.
The Transport Secretary confirmed on Tuesday that proposals by rail companies to close more than 900 of the 1,007 offices across the country would not go ahead.
The decision came after passenger watchdogs Transport Focus and London TravelWatch announced they opposed the closure of offices at all stations.
It came after the bodies held a consultation on the proposals in which more than 750,000 people took part. More than 99 percent of respondents opposed the closures, and only 2,045 wrote in favor.
Putting an end to the closure plans, Mark Harper said: “The proposals that have resulted from this process do not meet the high thresholds set by ministers, which is why the Government has asked train operators to withdraw their proposals.”
‘Silent fury in the rail industry’
However, the railway industry has accused the Government of making a 180-degree turn, after having supported the principle of closing ticket offices for months.
A train operator source said: “There is a quiet fury in the rail industry about where we need to go.
“The plan was approved by officials and ministers. “They have turned around.”
Last month, Huw Merriman, the railways minister, wrote to the transport select committee that “station reform was an important step in enabling staff to provide a more flexible, agile and personalized service and moving the rail network forward to meet the standard that passengers deserve.” ”.
Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, also previously defended the lockdowns, saying they were “the right thing to do for the British public and British taxpayers”.
A government source told The Telegraph: “The principle of station staff being multi-skilled to better serve passengers is sound, but industry proposals to implement it fell short of the high standards we set.”
The plan, which was first unveiled in July, has been the target of widespread criticism, with disability campaign groups, unions and politicians, including Conservative MPs, voicing opposition.
Several Conservative MPs welcomed the news on Tuesday, with Esther McVey saying she was delighted with the news and that “common sense had prevailed”.
David Davis, former Brexit secretary, added: “This is the right decision, albeit a little late. However, I welcome it as good news for maintaining a high quality service, especially in rural areas.”