South Glos Council votes unanimously to condemn railway ticket office closures

Photo fo the outide of Bristol Parkway railway station.
Bristol Parkway railway station, Stoke Gifford.

South Gloucestershire Council has voted unanimously to oppose the proposed mass closure of railway station ticket offices, including the one at Parkway Station in Stoke Gifford.

An emergency motion tabled by the Lib Dems received full cross-party support, although opposition Conservatives said it was “misleading” and an “obvious attempt to bash the Government” but backed it nonetheless.

The proposal instructs the authority’s co-leaders Cllr Claire Young (Lib Dem, Frampton Cotterell) and Cllr Ian Boulton (Labour, Staple Hill & Mangotsfield) to write to the transport secretary and the railways minister “expressing the council’s opposition” to the planned closures, which will leave the Bristol region with zero ticket offices, even at large stations such as Bristol Parkway, where it is proposed that all five ticket office windows will be closed by June 2024 at the latest.

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They will also write to Great Western Railway (GWR) opposing “any plans to leave South Gloucestershire residents without access to the full set of services provided by staffed ticket offices” and calling on the operator to publish the equalities impact assessment amid warnings the move will leave disabled and elderly passengers stranded.

GWR, which is consulting the public until Wednesday 26th July 2023, on the proposal to shut all of its ticket kiosks, has said staff would move onto concourses and platforms to be better placed to help customers and give travel advice, as well as continuing to sell tickets.


Cllr Ayrden Pocock (Lib Dem, Stoke Park & Cheswick), who tabled the motion at Full Council on Wednesday 19th July, told the meeting:

“What is being proposed by the Department for Transport (DfT) and [industry organisation] the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) is simply the most recent example of our nation’s rail infrastructure being grossly underfunded.”

“I don’t know how many people here use the trains to commute – it can be an ordeal in the mornings.”

“Only yesterday GWR’s app, one of the methods that the RDG and DfT said people should rely upon, had a massive server error.”

“It was very interesting to be in Bristol Temple Meads when this happened – people had to buy extra tickets on top of the tickets they’d already tried to buy on the app.”

“That’s an immediate example of why the closure of ticket offices would be a really awful thing.”

“This will disproportionately disadvantage our elderly and disabled residents.”

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Conservative group leader Cllr Sam Bromiley (Parkwall & Warmley) said:

“I’m conflicted by this motion – it’s full of inaccurate statements and it’s an obvious attempt to bash the government, which just wastes all our time.”

“But the principle of what it’s saying is actually supported by all of us.”

“We recognise the importance of people at stations to assist those who need the extra help, and that should be protected.”

“Some of the proposed changes bring them out onto the concourse instead of behind the glass in a ticket booth.”

“This makes them more accessible, more visible and more approachable.”

“So while this isn’t the motion I would put forward, I would support it, as a very flawed declaration of support for having people in stations to help with tickets is better than no support at all.”

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Cllr Kristopher Murphy (Conservative, Longwell Green) said:

“Having a member of staff tied to a ticket office does not guarantee certainty or confidence of struggling residents – the only guarantee it provides is that the members of staff are not free or able to help residents in other parts of the station.”

“GWR has been clear that staff will be moved to the concourse, enabling them to continue helping residents who need help and support.”

“It’s misleading to suggest problems with apps are widespread.”

“It is with the greatest reluctance that I will support this motion because, rightly, residents need to have access to staff at stations and the reassurance that brings.”

“But residents’ needs have not been fully thought through with it.”

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Cllr Katie Cooper (Labour, Staple Hill & Mangotsfield) said more than half of women and girls reported feeling unsafe using public transport.

“Many have experienced harassment, verbal abuse and violence,” she said.

“When asked what would increase feelings of safety on public transport, more visible and accessible staff ranks highly.”

Cabinet member for planning, regeneration and infrastructure, Cllr Chris Willmore (Lib Dem, Yate North) said:

“Nobody in this motion is saying that all staff need to stay chained to a ticket office, but this [DfT proposal] will remove any ticket office staff anywhere in the locality.”

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The meeting was told Labour’s West of England metro mayor Dan Norris is planning hold a rally opposing the closures at Bristol Temple Meads at 12.45pm on Wednesday 26th July.

It has been reported that five other metro mayors are joining forces to challenge the plans, which will see up to 1,000 ticket offices in England shut, by taking legal action against train operators.

They include Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and Liverpool city region mayor Steve Rotheram.

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Consultation extended

UPDATE added 26th July 2023.

The consultation into the plan to close hundreds of ticket offices in England has been extended until 1st September 2023, reports BBC News:

Rail ticket office mass closure consultation extended

The news came on the day metro mayor Dan Norris met protestors outside Bristol Temple Meads Station.

Photo of a group of protestors outside a railway station.
Metro mayor Dan Norris meets campaigners at Bristol Temple Meads Station to oppose the closure of ticket offices.

Mr Norris said:

“Ministers tried, and failed, to railroad through these botched plans in just 21 days, whatever the consequences, and without consideration for the future success of the railway. I urge passengers to use this additional time to show why these proposals are not fit for purpose.”

“Everyone knows tickets are confusing. When I catch the train, I am often unclear what is the best value ticket, and if I’m travelling off peak. Sometimes it can be cheaper to buy two tickets rather than one! And a machine just can’t second guess if you plan to return on a peak or off peak train – whereas staff will ask. That’s why passengers value Ticket Office staff.”

“It is now vital that ministers use the extra five weeks to provide assurances that these changes are actually to the benefit of passengers, and instead of a blanket ban on staff selling tickets, let’s see what works best for passengers in each station.”

“We need to do everything we can to encourage people onto trains. Not put up barriers. That’s all the more vital if we are going to try to reach our ambitious net-zero targets.”

Now that the consultation has been extended, the mayor also reiterated his calls for an Equalities Impact Assessment to help ensure that passengers who find machines especially tricky to use are not penalised.

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