Councillors lambast ‘discriminatory’ plans to close our ticket offices

Councillors have thrown their weight behind a campaign against closing railway station ticket offices – with the plans labelled “discriminatory against the disabled, elderly and vulnerable”.

At the full West Norfolk Council meeting held last Thursday, Cllr Steve Everett submitted a motion urging councillors to lobby the borough’s MPs to stop the closure of ticket offices at railway stations in Lynn and Downham.

The motion was passed, meaning the borough council now joins Norfolk County Council in officially campaigning against Rail Delivery Group plans which would see staff-run facilities phased out and replaced entirely by machines.

Lynn’s railway station is among those in West Norfolk that could have its ticket offices removed
Lynn’s railway station is among those in West Norfolk that could have its ticket offices removed

The proposals have faced heavy criticism in recent months, with notable concerns for elderly travellers who rely on cash and in-person interactions when purchasing tickets.

And at Thursday’s meeting, Cllr Everett said: “As someone that used to work in the rail industry for almost two decades, even I found the ticketing system complex.

“If someone in the industry found it complex, what hope has a member of the public got using a ticket machine?

“So these closures will place a barrier on some of the most vulnerable members of society who just want to speak to a human.”

Various councillors voiced their support for the motion, which will see West Norfolk MPs Liz Truss and James Wild called on to make their voices heard on the issue.

Frustrations were aired about a consultation process into the ticket offices closures being held over the summer while people are on holiday.

Others argued that having no staff present at railway stations could lead to an increase in anti-social behaviour on platforms.

Conservative leader Stuart Dark said the motion will give the borough council’s campaign extra “weight and gravitas”, while cabinet member Jo Rust referenced a tongue-in-cheek cartoon which mocks the apparent “easier and convenient” nature of ticket machines.

Cllr Rust also suggested that the offices at Lynn’s station are being “closed by stealth” due to consistent staff absences.

Cllr Brian Long, who is currently the chair of the Norfolk Rail Group, said: “To launch a consultation in the middle of the summer, when people are on holiday etcetera, does not give people the chance to respond. I fully support this motion.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Rob Colwell added: “I believe that the ticket office closure is discriminatory against the disabled, elderly and vulnerable.

“It is not about improving services, let’s just get that stated – it is simply about profit-hungry railway companies scheming at the expense of workers and customers.”

Borough council leader Terry Parish also supported the motion, and said: “As an ageing person, I am not digitally inept – but I know many people of my age, and older, who are.

“Removing staffing from anywhere causes them distress, and I know one or two older people who won’t even go some places because of the difficulties in so doing.

“It is all a creeping nuisance to a great many people who are ageing. They are all hoping that we all die and the younger people will be content.”

– Two other motions were carried at Thursday’s meeting.

The first will see the borough council add Lynn and West Norfolk Pride to the list of events it endorses and promotes every year, following a record turnout at this month’s event. This was suggested by Cllr Joshua Osborne.

The other, following an amendment accepted by its proposer Cllr Alex Kemp, will see the council “affirm its responsibility and intent, to do its utmost to influence and achieve timely delivery of the right strategic infrastructure” with regards to the Local Plan which will see around 13,000 new homes constructed in the borough.