- By Yasmin Rufo and Katy Austin, Transport Correspondent
- BBC News
The consultation into the plan to shut a whole bunch of ticket places of work in England is about to be extended till 1 September.
The 21-day interval for passengers to share their views was resulting from finish on Wednesday. But the Rail Delivery Group has confirmed an extension of just about six weeks.
More than 170,000 responses have been obtained, in line with Transport Focus.
The plan has been met with concern from unions and incapacity teams.
The RDG say it has listened to suggestions and has extended the consultation interval “to give as many people as possible a chance to take part.”
A spokesperson for London TravelWatch, which is partly operating the consultation stated some prepare firms didn’t present individuals with full and accessible codecs from the beginning.
“This has meant that some people may have been prevented from being able to respond to the proposals.”
Chairman of Network Rail, Lord Peter Hendy, informed BBC Breakfast an extension is “a really good thing for our customers, because the railway ought to listen to its passengers.”
Posters went up in stations earlier this month, inviting the general public to ship of their responses.
The ticket office closure proposals have been put ahead by prepare working firms. They are underneath stress from the federal government to chop prices after being supported closely throughout the Covid pandemic, and argue solely 12% of tickets at the moment are purchased at station kiosks.
Currently 299 stations in England run by prepare firms with DfT contracts have a full time staffed ticket office. 708 are staffed half time. Under the proposals, most would shut.
The business argues employees would as an alternative be current on platforms and concourses to promote tickets, provide journey recommendation and assist individuals with accessibility.
However, the UK’s largest rail union the RMT and the TSSA union each warned the plans may in the end result in job cuts.
Some rail specialists have additionally stated the difficult ticketing system ought to be reformed earlier than ticket office modifications are launched.
Penny Melville-Brown, a blind Royal Navy veteran who commonly makes use of the railway stated the proposals discriminated in opposition to individuals dwelling with sight loss.
She informed the BBC that she relied closely on ticket office employees at a prepare station as she has “no idea where to go as I don’t see anything”.
She added: “I don’t have huge problems with making things modern and work better for everyone, but when you design new systems, you need to start designing with the people who are going to have most problems, the most vulnerable.”
The incapacity rights campaigner has written an open letter explaining how tough commuting could be and criticising the consultation course of.
Tom Marsland, coverage supervisor at incapacity equality charity Scope, stated: “These botched plans will make rail journey inconceivable or a lot tougher for a lot of disabled individuals.
“Extending the consultation does not remedy that. The authorities and rail business want to return to the drafting board.”
There have been threats of authorized challenges to each from some incapacity campaigners, and from 5 Labour metro mayors.
But the prepare working firms’ physique, the Rail Delivery Group, has constantly defended the proposals and the consultation.
Last week its chief govt Jacqueline Starr informed the BBC the business was listening to accessibility teams’ considerations, and had taken half in a ‘spherical desk’ with the rail minister.
Asked if she may promise that each ticket would nonetheless be obtainable from machines or on-line, together with the most cost effective, Ms Starr responded: “I’m not going to make guarantees that that that I can not hold”.
She added that the business would work onerous to ensure merchandising machines did provide each ticket the place potential.