A government U-turn on plans for the closure of railway ticket offices across England will come as a relief to passengers, especially the elderly and the disabled, who use stations around High Barnet on the Great Northern Railway and Thameslink lines.
Loss of staffed ticket offices at busy local stations such as New Barnet, Mill Hill, and Elstree and Boreham Wood led to widespread criticism.
Even where restricted opening hours currently apply, at stations such as Hadley Wood and Oakleigh Park, there was concern that the loss of assistance with purchasing tickets at fixed points of the day would be a considerable inconvenience and reduce accessibility for some passengers.
In announcing that the planned closures had been scrapped, the Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the government had asked the rail operators to withdraw their proposal because they failed to meet high passenger standards.
Dan Tomlinson, the Labour Party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Chipping Barnet, who collected over 300 signatures in a petition opposing the closures at New Barnet and Oakleigh Park, welcomed the government’s climb down.
Throughout England there were thought to be over 750,000 objections and Mr Tomlinson said it had been obvious for months that a U-turn was imminent.
“These closures were never viable from the point of view of passengers, and I welcome their withdrawal.
“Ministers tried to present ticket office closures as a step being proposed by the rail operators, but everyone could see this was a cut handed down by the government.”
He said the wide support for the Labour Party’s petition in support of retaining the ticket offices at New Barnet and Oakleigh Park was an indication of how reckless the government’s proposals were and ministers had been told that load and clear.
“I'm glad that the Oakleigh Park and New Barnet ticket offices will remain open, and I'll always stand up for local residents and the services we all rely on.”
Theresa Villiers, Chipping Barnet’s Conservative MP, had expressed her unease and had informed the government she would continue to oppose the plan unless she was given further assurances.
She said at the time she was waiting to hear from Govia Thameslink, which operates services at New Barnet, Oakleigh Park, and New Southgate what measures were going to be put in place to ensure passengers had straightforward access to tickets if the closures had gone ahead.