Granada Debate: Ticket office closures must not drive digital divide

The Conservative MP for Bolton West says that it is vital rail ticket office closures don't further increase the digital divide here in the North West.

Last week the rail industry body announced most railway ticket offices in England face being shut down under a new set of consultations aimed at reshaping how stations are run.

Granada Reports spoke to disabled rail passengers to understand how the closure of ticket offices would affect them

Speaking on July's Granada Debate, Chris Green MP said: "What they are proposing in terms of changing the operation of the manned ticketing offices; it's about transferring people from being behind a desk into a more public space where more support can be offered.

"The challenge now is that it shouldn't be a stepping stone for further cuts.

"Having people out the front is I think a good idea - we also have to recognise that technology has changed and more people do buy online. 

"We also have to recognise in so many different services up and down the country that there's that concern of the digital divide.

"Many people are on the wrong side of that digital divide and none of these changes should affect them.

"The rail operators and the minister have a responsibility to protect those people.”

When host Lise McNally highlighted just 12 per cent of tickets are now purchased at traditional ticket offices, Barbara Keeley, Labour MP for Worsley and Eccles South responded: “It's 12 per cent of tickets and 12 per cent of tickets is an awful lot of tickets.

“That’s tickets for people who might not be digitally able to get them online, like people who are visually impaired or blind. I think it's hugely concerning."The consultation on this is going to happen in 21 days. It's being absolutely rammed through."

This month's debate also saw reaction to the Prime Minister's announcement of a public sector pay rise which saw teachers call off their latest strike action. It came on the day junior doctors began the longest walkout in the history of the NHS.

Rishi Sunak also stressed that this was the final offer and there would be no further negotiations with the unions.

Barbara Keeley MP was not impressed by this stance and urged the government to get back around the negotiating table with junior doctors: “What we've seen is a divisive and failing approach from the government and that's not acceptable.

“I think saying what the Prime Minister said is not helpful.

“We're facing a five-day strike and that's a very serious thing that will be causing a lot more problems with cancelled appointments meaning people waiting in pain or people with life limiting conditions like cancer and heart disease or stroke not getting the treatment they need."

This was the last Granada Debate before parliamentary recess. The show is due to return in September.

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