MEMBERS of Westmorland and Furness Council will table a motion tomorrow to instruct the council to address the closure of ticket offices in the region with the message “We need ticket offices”.

Councillor Janet Battye (Leven and Crooklands, Lib Dems), will propose the motion and Councillor Doug Rathbone (Kendal South, Lib Dems) will second it, to instruct the Chief Executive to write to Mark Harper MP, Secretary of State for Transport, and the Chief Executive of the Rail Delivery Group, expressing the council’s opposition to the possible closure of staffed rail ticket offices.

Cllr Battye said: “I’m proposing this motion because local residents have raised concerns about the possible closure of ticket offices with me.

“I’m thinking especially of a woman who uses the ticket office at Oxenholme station to arrange train journeys to go and see her family who live down south, she checks the route, timings, what tickets she needs to get and buys them.

“Personally, when I took my grandson to catch the train back home to South Wales, we needed to check which train he should catch to make the connection – the woman at the ticket office told us that it wasn’t the first train, but the second one.

“Neither of these tasks could easily be achieved if the ticket office is closed and we have to try to find someone who we might not recognise, might not be there, and might not be on the right platform.”

Figures obtained under freedom of information laws showed since the Northern franchise was taken away from Arriva in March 2020, more than 263,000 tickets were bought at Barrow, Ulverston and Grange ticket offices.

According to proposals Ulverston and Grange ticket offices are facing closure while the Barrow ticket office is due to remain open with reduced hours.

Councillor Jackie Drake ( Ulverston, Labour), said: "The Ulverston ticket office is highly important to residents. It is particularly important for those who are elderly or disabled. The personal contact is also vital for confidence, safety and security."

Cllr Rathbone added: “Ticket offices are of crucial importance to a wide variety of the travelling public. If we are to encourage people using the railways, we must keep them open, especially for those less physically able, without easy access to the internet, who want to buy the tickets that are not available from machines or are unable to navigate the massive complexities of the thousands of rail tickets available.

“Do we really want people to use the railways? If so, we need ticket offices.”

Jacqueline Starr, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “Since the introduction of the smartphone, the numbers using ticket offices have dropped to historic lows and that trend is rapidly accelerating. For rail to survive and thrive long-term, like any responsible industry, we need to change and evolve with our customers.”

The group point out 40% of the rail network currently operates without a ticket office.

Over 100,000 people have signed a national petition calling on the government to address the proposed changes.