Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Skates wins assurance over Welsh station ticket offices

* Ken Skates MS: ticket office reassurance.

Former Transport Minister Ken Skates has welcomed confirmation that ticket offices at Welsh train stations will not close, as is happening in England.

The Clwyd South MS raised the issue in the Senedd yesterday (Tuesday) after Plaid MS Sioned Williams asked how the Welsh Government is ensuring people with learning disabilities have access to public transport. 

Train operators last week confirmed the Conservative UK Government’s proposals to shut down almost all of the 1,007 remaining ticket offices in England within three years – even leading to criticism from some of their own Tory MPs. 

First Minister Mark Drakeford said the move was a “retaliatory measure in the ongoing industrial dispute that the UK Government fails to settle”. 

And rail union RMT claimed the closures “will restrict passengers’ access to the best value tickets, worsen passenger service, accessibility, safety and security and lead to a de-staffing of stations”.

Mr Skates said: “First Minister, we know that people with learning difficulties and other people who face disabling barriers in life hugely value the presence and assistance of staff at railway stations. 

“Would you agree that it’ll be a source of reassurance to them to hear that Transport for Wales have no plans whatsoever to reduce the number of staff at stations that they manage here in Wales and, indeed, where they manage them in England? In stark contrast, the Department for Transport in England have announced the wholesale closure of ticket offices at stations managed by them.” 

The First Minister said: “I absolutely do agree with what Ken Skates has said. Almost 900 ticket offices in England are affected by the announcement of the Department for Transport in what many people regard as simply a retaliatory measure in the ongoing industrial dispute that the UK Government fails to settle in the transport industry. Here in Wales, we proceed, as the Member knows, through social partnership, working closely with our trade union colleagues. We achieve far more by working together than forcing through changes as part of ongoing industrial disputes. 

“I’m able to confirm exactly what Ken Skates said. Transport for Wales does not plan to make similar changes to ticket offices in Wales, or indeed to the ticket offices that they manage in England – in Chester, Hereford and Shrewsbury, for example. 

“We know that, particularly for those people who may struggle to access services, then the presence of staff on the station able to respond directly to their requirements is a very important part of how they are able to access services.”

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