When the government announced plans to close ticket offices at train stations across the country, it felt like another kick in the teeth for disabled people. Not content with the lack of level boarding at stations in the UK, the poor attitudes to disabled passengers which often leave them stranded and the extortionate pricing which renders us all baffled, ticket office closures would see safety compromised for disabled people travelling by rail even more. That is, until the government took a surprise U-turn thanks to disability activists and organisations.
“The news has made me incredibly happy and it’s reduced my anxiety around travelling on trains. I hope the decision leads to improving the experience of disabled passengers when travelling,” said disability activist, writer and performer Leanna Benjamin.
Plans to close ticket offices were first leaked to the press in early 2022. Since then, campaigners, organisations, unions and disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) such as Scope, WheelPower and Mencap have fought to get the government to change its mind. While it was initially claimed that closing ticket offices would improve accessibility, no such proof was ever provided, and the fight went on.
Ticket office closures would impact everyone. What happens when electronic ticket machines go down, as they so often do? Or when your card just won’t work? Or when an entitled man feels he can climb over live tracks to harass a woman, as we saw in a viral video last month? As a disabled woman, that incident especially terrified me, as I wouldn’t have been able to run away from danger. When faced with the prospect of unmanned ticket offices, it was a survival instinct that drove so many disabled people to campaign for change.
“When accessibility barriers do come up, such as screens going down, deaf people like myself have to rely on announcements which are difficult to hear,” says Samantha Baines, a comedian and actor who regularly travels by train to work events. “Ticket machines can’t give me the information I need. Having disability-trained staff at stations is so critical to the deaf and disabled community.”
It’s no surprise that the catalyst for closures was to save money. Closures were initially…