'No-go zone for disabled people'

Unite delegate Martyn Gwyther warns ticket office closures would make train travel 'impossible for many'

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Unite delegate Martyn Gwyther gave an impassioned speech in defence of ticket offices as he seconded a motion on closures across England.

He said government plans to close ticket offices “totally disregards legal duties under the Equality Act”.

Martyn noted that a fifth of the entire population is disabled, citing the government’s own data which shows two-thirds of rail passengers with disabilities experience barriers to travel.

“These closures will effectively make the railways a no-go zone for disabled people,” he said. “The closure of ticket offices is a slippery slope to unmanned stations.”

Martyn explained that ticket offices were vital places where disabled people can go to for information and assistance.

“Disabled people rely heavily on highly trained ticket office staff for journey and timetable information as well as the purchase of tickets,” he noted.

Martyn said that demand for train travel from disabled passengers continues to climb – nearly a quarter of a million Disabled Persons Railcards were in circulation this year.

“That’s 11% higher than last year,” he told Congress.

He also pointed out that tens of thousands of disabled people who hold a concessionary freedom pass – which entitles them to free travel – could be forced to pay highly inflated prices for many rail tickets once ticket offices are closed.

Urging Congress to support the motion, he said that accessing train travel is already far too difficult for many disabled people.

“Removing ticket offices would make it impossible for many,” he concluded.

The motion was carried.

By Hajera Blagg

Pic by Mark Thomas