End of the line for railway ticket offices as sales go online: Fears for 3million over-65s who don’t have internet access
- All ticket offices on Britain’s railways will close as paper tickets are phased out
- But there are fears the older generations will find it hard to travel by train
- Up to 3million elderly people do not have internet access according to Age UK
- And many more do not have a smartphone on which to book and store tickets
All ticket offices on Britain’s railways are set to close as the rail industry looks to move its ticketing operations exclusively online.
The industry has drawn up plans to phase out paper tickets and either shut down or ‘repurpose’ hundreds of ticket offices across England in a move expected to save up to £500million a year.
But the planned shift to online ticketing has raised concerns that Britain’s elderly population, who may not have access to smartphones or be technologically savvy enough to use them, would struggle to travel via the trains.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said earlier this week that one in eight train tickets are still bought over the counter.
And the UK’s largest charity for older people, Age UK, says up to 3 million elderly folk in Britain do not have access to the internet, while many more are thought to live without a mobile device.
All ticket offices on Britain’s railways are set to close as the rail industry looks to move its ticketing operations exclusively online
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said earlier this week that one in eight train tickets are still bought over the counter
Caroline Abrahams of Age UK told The Times: ‘Many more [older people] lack an up-to-date smartphone or tablet, or live in a place with unreliable broadband. These people have relied on buying tickets face-to-face or over the phone and then collecting them from a station machine. What are they expected to do if everything goes online?’
It comes as union leaders confirmed that next week’s rail and Tube strikes will go ahead after talks to resolve a bitter row over pay, jobs and conditions.
The action by tens of thousands of rail workers will cripple services for most of the week.
The RMT Union has demanded inflation-tied pay rises for workers and a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies as part of a national drive to save more than £2bn across Britain’s railway network.
Underpinning the calls for industrial action are also claims that train operators have endured years of pay freezes and changes to their terms and conditions.
The union also claims Network Rail plans to cut jobs and reduce spending –with an impact on safety. But Network Rail and the Government have accused the union of an unwillingness to modernise work practices.
General secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘Despite the best efforts of our negotiators no viable settlements to the disputes have been created.’
He confirmed that strikes at Network Rail and 13 train operators will go ahead on Tuesday, Thursday and next Saturday, and on London Underground on Tuesday.
A commuter touches a touch screen ticket machine at an underground station on March 10, 2020 in London, England
Mick Lynch, Secretary-General of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers speaks at a trades union organised protest march opposed to British government policies at Parliament Square in London, Britain, June 18, 2022
‘It has to be restated that the source of these disputes is the decision by the Tory Government to cut £4bn of funding from our transport systems – £2bn from national rail and £2bn from Transport for London,’ he said.
‘As a result of this transport austerity imposed by the Government, the employing companies have taken decisions to savage the Railway Pension Scheme and the Transport for London scheme, cutting benefits, making staff work longer, and poorer in retirement, while paying increased contributions.
‘In the face of this massive attack on our people the RMT cannot be passive.
‘So today, having heard the reports on the discussions that have been taking place we are confirming that the strike action scheduled to take place on 21st, 23rd and 25th June will go ahead.
‘We want a transport system that operates for the benefit of the people, for the needs of society and our environment – not for private profit.
‘We call on the entire labour movement and the working people to rally to the support of the RMT and our members in this struggle.’
Transport Secretary Shapps accused the RMT union of ‘punishing’ millions of innocent people after it confirmed it will go ahead with the strikes.
Shapps said the travelling public faced a week of ‘misery’ because the RMT union had refused repeated appeals to call off their action due to start on Tuesday.
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