Recently at the North Devon Council’s full meeting the Liberal Democrat Leader Cllr Ian Roome urged all councillors to reply to the public consultation regarding the proposed closure of the Barnstaple Train Station ticket office. The following was his response to Great Western Railway.
As the Leader of North Devon Council and a concerned resident of Northern Devon, I firmly believe that the ticket office should remain open, as its closure would significantly impact a large portion of the population, particularly those with accessibility challenges and the older generation who are not tech-savvy.
Northern Devon is home to a diverse community, and accessibility remains a significant concern for many residents in this region. By providing a staffed ticket office, Great Western Railway ensures that passengers with disabilities, reduced mobility, and other accessibility issues can access essential travel services with ease. The presence of knowledgeable staff at the ticket office facilitates a smooth and stress-free travel experience, enabling passengers to receive personalised assistance and information, ensuring their journey is both safe and comfortable.
Furthermore, it is essential to consider the demographic of Devon, which has a substantial proportion of the older generation. These individuals may not be familiar with modern digital technologies or online ticketing systems. By maintaining the ticket office, Great Western Railway acknowledges the needs of this demographic, ensuring that they are not excluded from using the railway services due to technological barriers. Many prefer to buy their tickets in advance of travelling face to face and some tell me they need reassurance that they have a ticket and would not travel if they could not buy in advance. Of these many are isolated and do not have family or friends who can do this for them.
Another significant concern that must be addressed is the absence of an opportunity to purchase rail cards at Barnstaple Train Station. This limitation renders it non-viable for some passengers to travel. According to the data, 2803 railcards were sold during the 2022-23 financial year, indicating a clear demand for this service. Without the option to acquire rail cards locally, passengers are deprived of potential cost-saving benefits and incentives to travel by train, further impacting the accessibility and attractiveness of rail transport in the area. Therefore, it is imperative that Great Western Railway considers the inclusion of rail card purchasing facilities at Barnstaple Train Station to better serve the needs of the community and encourage increased usage of the rail services.
The provided data on ticket sales clearly illustrates the ticket office's significance to the community. During the 2022-23 period, the ticket office accounted for 45.5% of all tickets sold, totalling 77,466 sales. This substantial figure demonstrates that the ticket office is a vital and widely-used resource, and its closure would result in severe inconvenience and disruption to a significant portion of the population.
Additionally, Northern Devon is known for its remoteness, and public transport, particularly the railway, serves as a lifeline for many residents. The closure of the ticket office could lead to longer waiting times and increased frustration, as passengers may encounter difficulties in purchasing tickets through alternative means, such as ticket machines or online platforms. This inconvenience may discourage people from using public transport altogether, leading to potential negative implications for the local economy, tourism, and overall community wellbeing.
In light of these factors, I urge Great Western Railway to reconsider the decision to close the Barnstaple Train Station ticket office. The social and economic impact of this closure on the residents of Northern Devon cannot be underestimated. Instead, I propose exploring alternative solutions, such as reducing operating hours or implementing cost-saving measures while still ensuring that the ticket office remains accessible to the community.
Thank you for considering my input on this critical matter. I trust that Great Western Railway will take into account the concerns of the affected population and make a decision that aligns with the best interests of the community it serves.
I do hope that GWR will listen and keep the ticket office open. I will continue to lobby on behalf of everyone.