The planned widespread closure of railway station ticket offices in England has been scrapped.

Closures of train ticket offices in the North East had been identified, including in Darlington, Durham, Northallerton, Thornaby, and numerous other regional destinations. 

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the Government has asked train operators to withdraw their proposals.

This is in response to watchdogs Transport Focus and London TravelWatch announcing they opposed every single planned closure due to issues such as the impact on accessibility.

Mr Harper said: “The consultation on ticket offices has now ended, with the Government making clear to the rail industry throughout the process that any resulting proposals must meet a high threshold of serving passengers.

“We have engaged with accessibility groups throughout this process and listened carefully to passengers as well as my colleagues in Parliament.

“The proposals that have resulted from this process do not meet the high thresholds set by ministers, and so the Government has asked train operators to withdraw their proposals.”

Plans to close the vast majority of station ticket offices in England, plus Avanti West Coast’s ticket office at Glasgow Central, were brought forward by train operators and their representative body, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG).

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This followed pressure from the UK Government to cut costs amid the drop in revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

A train operator source told the PA news agency: “There is quiet fury in the rail industry about where we’ve got to.

“The plan was signed off by civil servants and ministers. They’ve U-turned.”

Initially, the plans sparked fury from trade unions and disability groups, with concerns also raised by public transport organisations.

In July, the Durham Parish Council requested an urgent meeting with the Rail Minister Huw Merriman MP in a bid to save the Ticket Office at Durham Railway Station.

According to FOI data released by the Department for Transport earlier this year, almost 140,000 tickets were sold in the ticket office in Durham in 2019 before the pandemic.

The latest figures show that over 76,000 tickets were sold in the ticket office in 2022.

The Parish Council has said throughout that passengers would no longer have widespread and easy access to the purchase of rail products and best-value fares if the ticket office closures went ahead as planned.

The Council argued that Durham has the highest number of passengers among the stations where LNER proposed to close the ticket office and demand for the ticket office in Durham remains high, with an estimated 14,000 tickets purchased each year at Durham Station alone.

The Parish Council has argued that the Ticket office closures would cause a significant worsening of the facilities and support offered to disabled, deaf and older residents.

Already, disabled people face numerous barriers in accessing the rail network and are three times less likely to travel by rail than non-disabled people.

Welcoming the news of the U-turn on ticket offices earlier today, Chair of the Parish Council’s Business Committee, Cllr Richard Ormerod, said: “We are delighted that the Government has seen sense and has now decided to U-turn on these ill-thought-out plans, which would have seen our ticket office in Durham close for good.

"I am delighted that the Parish Council has been leading the campaign to save our much-loved ticket office in Durham City. These plans have amassed a sea storm of objections and the Parish Council sought a sit down with the rail minister earlier this year to highlight our concerns.

"Rail users in Durham really value the exceptional service provided by the ticket office staff and it has been our contention throughout that these ticket office closures would impact on disabled and elderly users the hardest.”

He added: “The benefit of the human touch for railway users goes well beyond just the sale of tickets. Ticket Office staff are often first aid trained, provide users with a sense of security and safety when travelling at night and can also offer a range of ticket fares which often are not available via a ticket machine.

"Any supposed cost savings by cutting staff could never justify a policy that will worsen passenger service, accessibility, safety, security, and access to rail products. We are celebrating this excellent result today.”

Here are all of the train stations in the North East that were initially set to lose ticket offices:

  • Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland (LNER)
  • Darlington, Tees Valley (LNER)
  • Durham, County Durham (LNER)
  • Hexham, Northumberland (Northern)
  • Malton, North Yorkshire (Transpennine Express)
  • Middlesbrough, Tees Valley (Transpennine Express)
  • Morpeth, Northumberland (Northern)
  • Redcar Central, Tees Valley (Northern)
  • Scarborough, North Yorkshire (Transpennine Express)
  • Selby, North Yorkshire (Transpennine Express)
  • Sunderland, Tyne and Wear (Northern)
  • Thirsk, North Yorkshire (Transpennine Express)
  • Thornaby, Tees Valley (Transpennine Express)
  • Northallerton, North Yorkshire (LNER)