The Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead is objecting to planned closures of ticket offices at railway stations which will disadvantage vulnerable passengers – including at eight stations in the borough.
The council says the rail industry’s proposals to replace staffed ticket offices with ticket machines are premature, not fully developed and will reduce quality of service and ease of access to tickets for residents, especially older and/or disabled people.
Lending its voice to a growing chorus of objectors calling for a national re-think, the council has submitted its formal objection letter raising significant accessibility concerns on behalf of the borough’s local residents and visitors.
The borough has an ageing population with 18.4% of the population being aged 65 years and over and 12.4% declaring a disability. Windsor is also a major visitor destination which prides itself in welcoming people of different ages and abilities from around the world.
The council’s concerns include:
• Inaccessibility of machines to wheelchair users due to the height of screen and card reader
• The lack of audio availability and low screen contrast acts as a barrier for users with impaired vision and reduced literacy levels
• The limited provision offered by machines to customers with learning difficulties/disabilities
• Language barriers, resulting from many machines catering only for English speakers
• Wheelchair discounts (50% on the ticket price) are currently only available at a ticket office
• Foreign bank cards are often not accepted by machines – a particular issue for Windsor and Eton stations.
Councillor Simon Werner, the Council Leader, said: “As a council, we object strongly to these poorly-considered proposals to replace a popular face-to-face service with machines. This will disadvantage the most vulnerable and the whole plan needs a re-think.
“If agreed, this will impose unnecessary barriers to widespread and easy rail access for those many elderly passengers and rail users with a disability or learning difficulty, as well as bringing additional language challenges for our many international visitors to Windsor and Eton.
“It’s clear that further development of ticket machine technology is needed to address these accessibility issues. These premature proposals show a lack of understanding of the impact of change and poor planned mitigation. Simply re-deploying ticket office staff to assist customers will not resolve the technology issues arising from ticket machines.
“In addition, the proposals are based on current national average figures of total tickets sold through station ticket offices, rather than on actual tickets sales sold through station ticket offices locally, so poor consideration of the local picture.”
Residents can still have their say on the station ticket closure proposals until 1 September at https://www.transportfocus.org.uk/train-station-ticket-office-consultation/