Wakefield Council agrees to fight Westgate station ticket office closure plan

Councillors in Wakefield have backed a motion to “completely reject” plans to close the ticket office at the city’s Westgate rail station.
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Rail firms were accused of discriminating against disabled and vulnerable people and making “redundancies by stealth” during a debate.

Councillors voted overwhelmingly in favour of the motion to show “unwavering support” for transport unions and workers “struggling for fair working conditions, pay and job security”.

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David Pickersgill, Labour councillor for Wakefield North ward, proposed the motion.

Wakefield WestgateWakefield Westgate
Wakefield Westgate

He told a full council meeting: “Multiple train operating companies – LNER, TransPennine, Northern, dozens nationwide – have been working on this for months but gave the public just three weeks to respond.

“Westgate is the largest station in West Yorkshire that is targeted for closure.

“It’s currently the only station with a staffed ticket office in our district.

“It has over two millions users every year.

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“It’s neck and neck with Bradford Interchange, whose ticket office is due to stay open.”

Train companies are pressing ahead with plans to close hundreds of ticket offices at stations across England over the next three years.

Under the proposals, some ticket kiosks would remain in large stations, but elsewhere staff will be on concourses to sell tickets, offer travel advice and help people with accessibility.

The plan has been met with concern from disability groups.

Coun Pickersgill said between 300 and 500 tickets are bought in person at Westgate every day.

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He added: “Many will need advice because they have either got access needs or they are infrequent travellers.

“If we are to encourage more people to use railways, we need simple and cheaper fares.

“But we also need to keep the railways a service with a human face.

“While there is a social case to keep open every ticket office, there is a particularly strong case to keep open Wakefield Westgate.”

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Coun Gwen Page (Labour, Horbury and South Ossett) seconded the motion, saying: “Put people before profit, stop this discrimination against the vulnerable in our society and leave Wakefield Westgate open as it is.”

The Conservative opposition group supported the campaign for the ticket office office to remain open but proposed an amendment to the motion to remove support for the unions.

Lib Dem Group leader Pete Girt backed the motion, saying: “I don’t think it should be an either/or.

“Why can’t we support unions and support passengers?”

Jack Hemingway, deputy leader of the Labour-run council, said: “The opposition group are looking for an excuse not to vote for it.

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“They say they want to support it but they can’t be seen supporting the unions.

“You should be supporting the workers who are fighting for our railways. That is what we intend to do on this side of the chamber.”

Charlie Keith, (Labour, Wrenthorpe and Outwood West) described the proposals as the “thin end of the wedge”.

He said: “You can’t trust these people. Half of them can’t lie straight in bed.”

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Jakob Williamson (Labour, Hemsworth) said: “We should be running a rail service that is accessible to everyone.

“Let’s be really clear, these closures are just redundancies by stealth. It’s just an attempt to cut staff to increase profits.”

Tony Homewood (Independent, Ossett) said: “It is very easy to think Wakefield is just a through station to Leeds. It’s not.

“It’s an intersection. People come from all over the place.

“There might be an argument for closing ticket offices in some stations, but Wakefield isn’t one one of them.”

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Nick Farmer (Conservative, Ossett), a Fire Brigades Union member for more than 30 years, received a round of applause from the Labour benches when he said: “This is a conscience vote for me.

“I am going to support this motion and I will have to accept the consequences from the Conservative Party.”

The motion calls on the government and train companies to abandon the closure plans, both nationally and in Wakefield.