Great Western Railway has responded to yesterday's U-Turn by government to allow the closure of over 1000 ticket offices across England, including Teignmouth, Newton Abbot and Dawlish.

The ticket offices were set to close imminently, and were touted by Great Western Railway (GWR) as part of a modernisation programme, although they would see hundreds of staff being made redundant.

However, the transport secretary, Mark Harper, said the ‘government had asked train operators to withdraw their proposals.’

The decision follows a damning public consultation that attracted 750,000 responses, 99% of which were objections. 

In a statement, GWR said: 'Our proposals were designed to balance the need to improve the experience for all our customers and reduce the cost of the industry to the taxpayer – and we developed our plans further during the consultation process. 

'Transport Focus has recognised that the majority of GWR’s plans met the standards they set to evaluate whether they represent an improvement for customers. However, we recognise both passenger bodies have unresolved concerns in some areas that would require national policy decisions.

 'We will take now some time to work with the Department for Transport to understand the next steps.'

Although GWR says that just 15% of ticket sales are at the ticket office, the decision to close them prompted widespread backlash and condemnation from unions, disability groups and the wider public. 

In August, a rally was held outside Newton Abbot railway station in opposition to the plans. 

Train protest
A rally was held to save Teignbridge's ticket offices in the summer, attended my Cllrs Jackie Hook and Martin Wrigley (Mike Puleston)

Transport Focus, one of the passenger watchdogs managing the survey, stated that the responses ‘contained powerful and passionate concerns about the potential changes’ associated with the loss of England’s ticket offices. 

Transport Secretary Mark Harper continued: ‘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.’

Lee Rundle, an RMT activist from Teignmouth, said: ‘This is a great win not just for the union but mainly for the travelling public. It secures jobs but it’s also means that there will be a continued interface with real people. 

‘I know we’re moving towards a more digitally-led world but there are people that aren’t in that world. And it doesn’t make it easy when there’s no one in sight and the ticket machine doesn’t work.’

Cllr Jacki Hook said: ‘This is fantastic news, and shows that a strong and just campaign can result in a government U-turn. As a Council, we had unanimously voted to oppose the closures. 

‘As Lib Dem Cllr we were lobbied by many of our residents, not just the elderly but vulnerable customers and those with some disabilities. Many said that the change would prevent them from using the train altogether. I’m delighted that common sense and justice have prevailed.’

Cllr Martin Wrigley said: ‘This is fantastic news to have the Department of Transport come to their senses and change direction. 

‘I know how important the ticket office is to local people. I’m delighted, this is putting people over profits which is the right thing to do. Let’s hope it sees the end of this ridiculous franchising system put in by a ridiculous Conservative government.’