Campaigners in Wiltshire have welcomed the Government U-turn on plans to close hundreds of railway ticket offices throughout the country following pressure from local councils and community rail user groups.

The Rail Delivery Group proposals were supported by train operators including Great Western Railway and South Western Railway.

They would have affected seven ticket offices at stations in Bradford on Avon, Chippenham, Pewsey, Swindon, Trowbridge, Warminster and Westbury.

But thousands objected to the proposals in a public consultation that ended in September.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: The ticket office at Bradford on Avon railway station will now remain open for the foreseeable future following the Government U-turn. Photo: Trevor Porter 70068-2The ticket office at Bradford on Avon railway station will now remain open for the foreseeable future following the Government U-turn. Photo: Trevor Porter 70068-2 (Image: Trevor Porter)

Trowbridge Town Council leader Cllr Stewart Palmen said: “I am delighted that the Government has reversed the poorly thought-out decision to close Trowbridge station’s ticket office.

“Trowbridge train station is a massive asset to the town and ensuring there are no barriers to people using it is essential."

In Bradford on Avon, more than 3,300 people backed a town council petition opposing the proposed closure of the local GWR ticket office.

The town’s mayor, Cllr Katie Vigar, said: “The withdrawal of these plans is fantastic news for all those who campaigned to keep ticket offices open and especially for all those rail users who depend on a staffed ticket office to get the advice and help they need to make their journeys. 

“I'm delighted that the petition organised by the town council, and which achieved over 3,300 signatures, played its part in getting this result. "

Richard Cowell, chair of the West Wiltshire Rail Users Group, an independent association that aims to maintain and enhance the rail services serving West Wiltshire, said: “It’s amazing. We are really delighted.

“When the Government saw the volume of complaints that came out of the Transport Focus they decided it was going to be an unpopular move and decided to do a U-turn.”

Mr Cowell said the West Wiltshire RUG is now pressing for ticket offices to employ more staff and to stay open, instead of being closed when staff are off sick or on holiday.

Cllr Phil Harcourt, the interim chair of Westbury Town Council’s Highways, Planning and Development committee, said: “We are greatly relieved and overjoyed that the Government has seen fit to make a U-turn.

“Until the technology is there to offer passengers the cheapest means of travelling, you can’t do away with the ticket offices.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the proposals to close railway ticket offices in England “did not meet the high thresholds” of serving rail passengers.

The industry body, the Rail Delivery Group, unveiled proposals in July that could have led to nearly all offices being shut, with facilities only remaining open at the busiest stations.

It said moving ticket office staff on to station platforms and concourses would “modernise customer service”.

GWR said the number of people buying tickets at most of its offices had dropped to below 15 per cent as more passengers now use online booking or buy at ticket vending machines.

Rail industry unions and campaigners said the closures would lead to job losses and difficulties for passengers such as the elderly and disabled in paying for travel.

Mr Harper said: “We have engaged with accessibility groups throughout this process and listened carefully to passengers as well as my colleagues in Parliament.

“The proposals that have resulted from this process do not meet the high thresholds set by ministers, and so the Government has asked train operators to withdraw their proposals.

“We will continue our work to reform our railways with the expansion of contactless Pay As You Go ticketing, making stations more accessible through our Access for All programme and £350 million funding through our Network North plan to improve accessibility at up to 100 stations.”