Jon Trickett MP: Ticket offices are vital for our community
Jon Trickett MP writes: Last month I wrote about the banks. There are hardly any branches left.
I spoke to a local man who has used the same Barclays branch for decades. They closed it. He’s 88 years old and partially sighted.
He finds it difficult to get about these days and to use a bank card. They told him to go to the Pontefract Branch. But that has been closed too!
Some of the post offices are closing too.
Now the government and rail companies want to shut the ticket offices.
Tens of thousands of people in the country have written to complain. I really hope they don’t go ahead. We need ticket offices.
I support the union and the rail workers who have been on strike to defend their jobs, pay and conditions and are trying to save ticket offices.
I can illustrate my reasoning easily.
I met a couple on the doorstep in my area who were really concerned about government plans to close ticket offices.
The man has to go regularly to hospital in North Leeds by train and then by bus as he can’t drive.
It takes nearly an hour and half each way.
He and his wife don’t have a bank card so can’t use a local, unstaffed station that only has a ticket machine.
They also told me about a relative who did catch a train at an unstaffed station.
One of the ticket machines was bust and there was a queue at the other one.
The train arrived, so he got on it intending to pay the conductor.
He was fined £100 for not having a ticket!
“It’s outrageous,” they said.
I asked whether they could buy rail tickets online.
The answer was straight forward: “How can we? We can’t afford the internet or a computer.”
There are many people in the same position.
Not only that, but you can’t talk to a computer and sometimes you need advice and a friendly face to help out.
This is why the staff in the ticket offices are so important.
By the way, just to add insult to injury, the rail companies want to shut the offices and cut jobs to save money before giving the remaining workers a pay rise.
It will damage morale, lead to a worse service, and leave vulnerable customers in difficulty.
I was wondering what other people’s views are? Let me know.
I was also struck by how strong a trade union man my constituent was.
Even though he is retired, he has kept up his membership of Unite the Union.
“It’s the only way for the working class,” he told me.
“The rail unions are fighting for people like us, who could be completely stuck if the government gets their way.”
The next time someone says they are fed up with the rail strikes, tell them about what will happen if they close the ticket offices.