In this week’s column, I want to share the fantastic news that the government has instructed train operating companies that they must keep their ticket offices open. 

As a user of ticket offices myself, I shared many residents’ concerns about the potential long term impacts that closing our ticket offices might have had. With Woking being a commuter town, and with four train stations serving Woking residents, I always believed that it was vital to keep our ticket offices open. 

During the summer, train companies consulted on a proposal to close railway station ticket offices. The aim was to move staff out from behind ticket office screens so that more help and advice could be provided in customer-focused roles; and, let’s face it, the proposal was designed to save money too. 

Since the consultations launched, I argued throughout that all currently staffed ticket offices should remain open. Like hundreds of thousands of people across our country, I participated in the official consultation to raise important concerns – whilst also taking the opportunity to lobby transport ministers directly against the proposals too.

Whilst I acknowledge that an estimated 90 per cent of all ticketed transactions were made at ticket vending machines or online last year, it was always clear to me that ticket offices provide a vital service and essential support to some of our most vulnerable residents and travellers, especially the elderly and disabled.

Following the consultation and further meetings with accessibility groups and passenger bodies, it thankfully became clear that the ticket-office proposals did not meet the high thresholds set by ministers. 

The government has therefore communicated to the industry that ticket-office reform should not proceed, and the government is now expecting the train operating companies to withdraw their proposals and for all current ticket offices to remain open.

The government will, however, continue to invest in improving the passenger experience at railway stations. That is why the government has committed £20 million to extend pay-as-you-go ticketing to a further 53 stations in the South East by the end of the year.

Woking Station has already benefited from accessibility improvements, including a new Changing Place at Woking station – as the result of £100,000 of investment by SWR, there is a larger and much better-equipped accessible toilet for customers with more limited mobility. 

This is in addition to the new Calming Spaces at stations managed by SWR, including one at Woking Station. Calming Spaces are waiting rooms which incorporate calming features to create a more inclusive space for customers who are neurodiverse or may have non-visible disabilities.

The Changing Place and the Calming Space, along with other accessibility features at Woking, now make it one of SWR’s most accessible and inclusive stations.

Our railways remain one of the most sustainable and efficient methods of public transport, and they are particularly important to many residents and commuters here in Woking. 

I thank everyone who responded to the recent consultation on ticket offices, and I am delighted that they will now be retained.