Harborough and Leicester councils hit out at plans to close town's railway ticket office

The station's ticket office could closeThe station's ticket office could close
The station's ticket office could close
A consultation period has now been extended

A ‘last ditch attempt’ to save the ticket office at Market Harborough station has been made.

Harborough District Council leader Phil Knowles has held a meeting with East Midlands Railway where he relayed concerns of the authority, rail users and local residents.

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Proposals by the railway say Market Harborough ticket offices will close, while stations will be staffed between 6am and 11pm. The final decision will rest with the Secretary of State.

A consultation into the plans was due to end today (July 26) but an extension has now been granted until September 1.

Cllr Knowles said: “I told East Midlands Railway (EMR) while we appreciate the need they have to save money and against the backcloth of modernisation, there is a real danger of a negative impact on sections of our community. Many will use the internet for ordering tickets while for others the prospect of no ticket office will serve only to bring trepidation. It would be well received if EMR would seek a more dovetailed approach.

“The EMR representatives were keen to tell me this is a meaningful consultation and reminded me that final rubber stamp will rest with the Secretary of State. I took the opportunity to point out the Secretary of State could therefore be seen as a legitimate late lobbying opportunity. After all, the ticket office is important to those who are wheelchair dependent, those who have restricted mobility and restricted sight. It is also a key place for customers to explore the best opportunity to look for the cheapest, value for money tickets - particularly important in these times of a cost-of-living crisis.

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“EMR assured me the station will be staffed from 6am until 11pm and confirmed the staff will be on hand to support customers and assist where needed, but it’s impossible not to see that amidst this change there is a negative impact for some of our community.''

Cllr Knowles’ meeting with railway bosses comes after Leicestershire County Council called the closures ‘short sighted’.

The plans would also see the likes of Melton Mowbray, Hinckley and Narborough ticket offices closed, and council transport spokesman Ozzy O’Shea has written to Transport Focus - the independent watchdog which wants to hear from passengers and other interested parties.

He said at a time when the rail industry should be ‘doing all it can’ to encourage people to travel by rail the proposals do nothing to promote it as being safe and inclusive of all customers.

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He also said while he has no ‘principle issues’ with Harborough being staffed while offices are closed, the staff must be available and trained. Mr O’Shea said: “We should be enhancing facilities in anticipation of greater passenger numbers – not reducing them.”

“I feel passionate about our commitment as a public transport authority to support the rail network and to deliver on carbon and congestion reduction strategies. We need an integrated travel experience which boosts business and leisure in the region and the train should be the travel of choice.”