THE Government’s decision to stop train operators closing ticket offices will come as a huge relief to rail travellers, West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger said.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper stepped in to veto the plan after a massive public outcry.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said the Minister’s move demonstrated the power of public opinion.

He said: “It shows that if enough people shout loudly enough common sense can prevail.

“Rail travellers have had to put up with swingeing fare increases, hundreds of trains which have run late or simply failed to appear, and a host of other deteriorations in the standards of rail travel in the UK.

“They certainly were not going to accept the withdrawal of facilities which have always been looked on as a cornerstone of the railways.”

Train operators claimed the closure of ticket offices would not impinge on passengers because staff would still be available for contact on platforms.

But opponents of the scheme claimed the entire exercise was merely designed to save money, with estimates that up to 3,000 jobs would have been lost.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said: “This disastrous proposal had all the hallmarks of a cynical desk-top exercise which took no account of the realities of rail travel.

“In particular, it ignored the needs of occasional travellers who require more guidance and advice, particularly on obtaining the best price for their journeys, than they can ever get from a ticket machine.

“Equally, it turned a totally blind eye to the elderly who do not own computers and are therefore unable to book online.

“The entire recent history of the railway network in this country has been one where the needs of the operators have consistently taken precedence over those of the travelling public and where the drive to increase profits has appeared to be far more important than the duty to provide a decent and reliable public service.

“I am not surprised there was a huge public outcry over the closure proposals and I really am thrilled the idea has been comprehensively binned.

“What we must now guard against is any further erosion of services to passengers or, indeed, any attempt to close ticket offices by stealth on a station-by-station basis using skewed data suggesting they are not being used.

“So, we need to ensure that they are adequately manned rather than deliberately kept understaffed in order to create queues and reduce passenger footfall, which would just strengthen the case for any revived attempt by the operators to deprive the public of a highly-valued service.

 “Given that I have a healthy mistrust of railway operators, I would therefore urge every rail passenger needing to buy tickets on the day of travel to allow themselves a little extra time and obtain them from a ticket office rather than a machine.”