Discrimination: Rail ticket office closures

Act Fast! Deadline for comments is 26th July 2023. If you object, tell Transport Focus , London TravelWatch and your MP. 

They seem to have made it as difficult as possible, particularly for visually impaired people. My words below might give you some ideas.

 

Dear Transport Focus and London TravelWatch,

I strongly object to both the discriminatory proposed closure of railway station ticket offices and the discriminatory method of consultation on the proposal.

Having been totally blind for over quarter of a century, I cannot drive a car.   I have been nearly wholly reliant on rail transport for income-generating work and recreation throughout the UK and around the world throughout this time.   I have run my own business during this time, undertaken very many senior Government public appointments and international roles.

Typically, I will use SWT and other providers to travel from Fareham and Southampton Airport Parkway to London, Derbyshire, Birmingham, Sheffield, Scotland and Wales, France, Belgium and further afield.   Like any person who expects the freedom to travel, it is nearly impossible for me to specify every journey, starting or destination point – and nor should I be required to do so.

As a blind person travelling alone, I need:

To get to the station.   Usually, by taxi which means the driver has limited and/or short-term parking.   That driver may be able/willing to guide me to the ticket office near the station entrance but cannot guide me further to, say, the concourse and search there for a member of the station staff.

To buy a ticket.   Risk of theft and scams plus inaccessible IT systems prevent me from undertaking any financial transactions on-line.   Station ticket-machines are not accessible for me: to either select the destination, register my discount card entitlement or type of ticket or to make payment.   I cannot see what sum of money is being displayed so I will not consider authorising such.   I will not make electronic payment to a person who is not identifiable for me on a station concourse as I have no means of knowing either who they are or what I am paying.   I am more willing to make that payment to an individual in a fixed ticket sale position which provides a level of “official” status and security.   As a frequent traveller, there is high likelihood that I will recognise the voice of the ticket staff over time and know that it is safe to make a financial transaction with them.   I do not make financial payments over the phone when I have no means of verifying the payee and handling long, complex bank or other security numbers is not possible.

To get further help.   I will usually have arranged passenger assistance beforehand and will need to locate such at the station.   The taxi driver will not be able to help.   I will be cautious of accepting help from other passengers who usually have no guiding skills, have limited knowledge of the station/services and are unknown to me.   With the proposed changes, I will be left standing kerbside, unable to move in the right direction, unable to progress my journey.   With ticket office staff, I can rely on their official status to ensure that responsibility is safely and promptly transferred to a colleague.   Prompt action is needed as I have a train to catch like anyone else.

I am not averse to changes in services to passengers but it must be safe, secure, speedy and effective taking account of all the passengers’ needs.   Removing static, official, recognisable and competent ticket staff has wholly disproportionate negative impact on many disabled and, especially, blind people.   We have very limited alternative travel options and this ill-conceived proposal to close ticket offices discriminates against us.   Additionally, it further limits the ability of disabled people to work or have the leisure activities available to the rest of the population.

Without full and detailed description of the arrangements that will be put in place to maintain the ability of people with any disability to travel by train independently, the proposal fails and is unlawful.   The proposals provide no evidence as to how the rail system will ensure service provision for disabled people will comply with both the Equality Act (2010) and the Secretary of State for Transport’s Ticketing and Settlement Agreement guidance.

Consultation.  I also wholly object to the method by which this consultation has been undertaken.   I have not been contacted by the passenger assistance service or by the vendor of my disabled person’s travel card.   Both these organisations have my contact details (and even a photograph) so are fully aware of my disability and consequent needs.

Instead, I have had to rely on hearing some information on the radio (neither print nor visual media are available to me).   Fortunately, I was made aware of the consultation through a charity only to discover that the core information is on-line.   I am therefore reliant on the availability of other people to obtain that information and, subsequently, submit this response on my behalf.   This again is wholly discriminatory in failing to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate my disability.   This failure further evidences the utter disregard of the rail service system to fulfil their legal duties.

 

 

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© 2023 - Penny Melville-Brown
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