MPs have thanked their communities for helping reverse a controversial decision to close rail ticket offices throughout the region. 

The Government announced on Tuesday that the planned widespread closure of railway station ticket offices in England has been scrapped.

Rail operator LNER had proposed closing the facilities at Durham and Darlington stations, with other stations in Teesside and North Yorkshire also affected. 

LNER said it proposed closing the ticket offices after analysis of passengers’ purchasing habits showed the majority opted for digital and online sales. They said ticket office staff will be moved from behind screens onto platforms to help passengers. 

But campaigners warned the move would have an impact on accessibility. 

The Northern Echo: Peter Gibson outside the current LNER ticket office in Darlington Station Peter Gibson outside the current LNER ticket office in Darlington Station (Image: Peter Gibson MP)

At Darlington, only seven per cent of passengers recently purchased tickets at the ticket office but figures show it is the most popular out of the seven LNER plans to close. But the town’s Conservative MP, Peter Gibson urged the operator to keep the facility open and criticised the “short-sighted” decision.

Usage increased to 133,785 in 2022 - up by around 33,000 in 2021 - but was significantly down on 2019’s figures of 239,137 and 349,701 in 2012.

Following the latest announcement, Mr Gibson said: “I am delighted that the effective campaign by the community In Darlington has been effective. Showing the train operators that their proposals to close ticket offices did not meet the threshold.

“I know those in Darlington who use our ticket office including the elderly, the disabled and those with special needs will be relieved at this news. I want to thank everyone who participated in the consultation and shared their views with me which I then shared with the government and the train operators.”

In Durham, almost 140,000 tickets were sold via the ticket office in 2019. The figure dropped to 76,000 in 2022 but was an increase on the previous Covid pandemic years. 

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The Northern Echo: Mary Kelly Foy MP at the Durham ticket office Mary Kelly Foy MP at the Durham ticket office (Image: Mary Kelly Foy MP)

A local campaign led by City of Durham Parish Council and Labour MP Mary Kelly Foy saw hundreds of rail users oppose the plans.

"While leading calls locally in opposition to these closures it has become abundantly clear just how vital face-to-face support provided at rail ticket offices is for many vulnerable, elderly or disabled passengers.

"Closing ticket offices would have derailed the ability of many to travel with confidence."

A spokesperson for Transport for the North said: “We are pleased that plans to close ticket offices are not being taken forward.

"As today’s 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.”