Littleborough train station's ticket office to remain open as controversial plans to close nationwide ticket offices scrapped

Date published: 03 November 2023

Plans to close train station ticket offices across the UK, including Littleborough, have been scrapped.

Under the previously announced plans, Littleborough Station would have lost its staffed ticket office and seen the introduction of ‘journey makers’ who would be roving the station directing passengers to ticket machines.

However, after a consultation that was held over the summer, the controversial plans will no longer go ahead.

The Rail Delivery Group confirmed on 31 October that the plans “won’t be taken forward” but said it would “continue to look at other ways to improve passenger experience while delivering value for the taxpayer.”

A spokesperson for Transport for the North said: “We are pleased that plans to close ticket offices are not being taken forward. As the report from Transport Focus clearly shows, withdrawing ticket office staff would leave passengers very disadvantaged and would be a barrier to people using the railway.

“The way that people buy their tickets is changing, and we need to take account of that, but the presence of staff is about so much more than simply retailing tickets. They are a human point of contact, including helping passengers who might need assistance or providing reassurance for those who might be wary of travelling alone.

“We believe ticket office staffing should be looked at only as part of a wider review of stations, that takes in pay-as-you-go, retail and other services. Done correctly, we can ensure that reform supports growth and the needs of all passengers. But it must not be to the disadvantage of any station users, especially in regards to accessibility and safety.”

Richard Lysons, chair of the Friends of Littleborough Stations said: "Our group was formed many years ago to campaign for step-free access to our embankment platforms. That lengthy campaign was ultimately successful, meaning that wheelchairs and buggies can reach both platforms via the access ramps. 

"We knew that there had been plans in the pipeline to reduce the staff at ticket offices and the announcement earlier in the year spurred us into action. We went round the whole of the village distributing posters saying 'Save Our Staffed Ticket Office' and urging people to respond to the Transport Focus consultation by email or post. We had fantastic response from shop and cafe owners who were kind enough to display the posters in their windows. 

"Staffed ticket offices make stations safer and are essential for the disabled and those without access to a smartphone or computer. Many people dislike using a ticket machine which in any case does not always offer the passenger the cheapest or most convenient route. A trained ticket office staff member can offer Duo, Family and Group tickets, for example. 

"We have also had wonderful support from LEAF, local churches, voluntary groups, our local councillors and Tony Lloyd MP. They all recognised the importance of a staffed ticket office in our local community. But we must all keep using it. 

"FOLS has actually gained new members since we started to oppose the staffed ticket office closure plans. It just shows that sometimes the views of ordinary folk are listened to. The battle is not over yet so we must not become complacent. All over society we are seeing destaffing - with a consequent decline in service levels -at banks, shops and elsewhere. 

"Petrol stations sell more than just petrol. There is an opportunity for station ticket offices to widen their role, especially with the growth of the leisure market for rail travel. For example, Merseytravel have staffed shops that sell train tickets as well as drinks, sandwiches, newspapers and confectionery; they are open from early morning to late at night. More importantly, these station shops provide a human presence at the stations reassuring passengers who may be - or feel - vulnerable."

Richard concluded: "FOLS will continue to press for better and safer waiting facilities and reliable train services at both Littleborough and Smithy Bridge. We are asking for a safer car park at Littleborough and better - and drier - waiting facilities at both stations. We have excellent relations with Network Rail, Northern and Transport for Greater Manchester who value us as a 'critical friend'.

"FOLS were also instrumental in the establishment of a community rail partnership along the Calder Valley Line and worked closely with officers and elected members of Rochdale Council to make it happen.

“Our community rail officer, Karen Hornby, is doing sterling work along the line, encouraging rail travel and building relationships with communities and groups. The future of the line - and its stations - is bright; we just need electrification now."

FOLS next meeting is on Monday 13 November at 7pm at Littleborough History Centre. All are welcome. 

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