The public consultation on proposals to close nearly every rail station ticket office is still open.
Mounting pressure from the TSSA, Labour MPs and disability campaigners saw the Rail Delivery Group backtrack last-minute on their laughable three-week consultation deadline.
And yet, rail users are already getting a glimpse into what train travel of the future would look like should the planned closures go ahead.
Stephen from Essex was browsing train tickets online to see a theatre production in Stratford when he noticed a problem. He could see fares for £69.30 but wasn’t able to buy them online, where the cheapest price was showing up as £120.35.
Instead, Stephen took matters into his own hands.
He explained: “I walked to the staffed station at Basildon and bought the tickets for £69.30.
“Closing ticket offices would have cost me - just me - £51.05. How is closing ticket offices in the interest of your constituents?
“My local station where I grew up lost its staff in the early 80s. It made travelling to see family a nightmare. Staffed stations are invaluable.”
Sadly, under the changes Stephen’s experience would undoubtedly become commonplace. Rail firms have suggested all ticket purchases would be moved to station machines - failing to mention that 1 in 5 tickets are not actually available through these machines.
Not to mention that when ticket machines fail, it is usually someone from the ticket office who steps in to sort the problem out. One TSSA rep in London estimated that she spends as much as a third of her shift sorting out issues with the machine.
Rail travel should add to the adventure of a night out at the theatre, or an impulsive weekend away. It shouldn’t represent the stress of fighting for discounts that are deserved but dangled tantalisingly out of reach.
Keeping ticket offices open means rail travel can remain safe, affordable and accessible to all. That’s the true value of our railways. That’s the ticket.