The proposed closure of Selby station ticket office is drawing passionate responses from candidates in the upcoming Selby and Ainsty by-election. The closure, part of an industry-led proposal being carried out nationwide, has triggered widespread controversy. Four of the local election candidates have shared their perspectives with the Yorkshire Bylines.
Opposition to ticket office closure
Leading the charge against the proposed closure is Arnold Warneken, the Green Party candidate, who staunchly opposes any reduction in rail services. He emphasises, “Rail travel is already a source of stress for many, and removing the human touch from the equation will only exacerbate the issue. Such cutbacks chip away at the public’s confidence in an already shaky rail system. Public transport should serve the public’s needs first and foremost and should be amply funded to reduce our dependency on private cars”.
Warneken is particularly critical of the government’s cost-saving approach, which he sees as disproportionately affecting vulnerable groups. He states, “The elderly and disabled already face numerous travel obstacles. The introduction of touch-screen ticket machines, for instance, poses an insurmountable challenge for blind individuals. The government’s pursuit of savings should not come at the expense of these groups. I stand firmly against the proposed ticket office closures”.
Guy Phoenix, candidate for the Heritage Party, also opposes the closure, stressing the importance of ticket offices for blind and partially sighted individuals, and those without smartphone or internet access. Phoenix asserts, “The right to use cash to purchase tickets must also be maintained: there must be no move to card-only ticket machines which discriminate against people who do not have a bank card”.
By-election candidates speak out
Tyler Callum Wilson, an independent candidate, also expressed strong disapproval of the closure, arguing that it threatens job security and could disadvantage elderly and non-digital native constituents. Wilson cited concerns raised by rail workers unions, stating, “If elected, I will take a strong stance against these in-person ticket office closures, and I will work with workers, commuters, local unions and my constituents to ensure that Selby Ticket Office remains open and accessible to the public”.
Andrew Philip Gray, another independent candidate, views the closure as a retrograde step. He said, “Automatic ticketing will only make things worse”, suggesting that professional ticket office workers provide indispensable service and advice for passengers. Gray emphasizes the importance of human involvement in technological advancements.
Mike Jordan, representing the Yorkshire Party, declared his fury at the announcement. He argues that not everyone is comfortable using digital screens and raises concerns about disabled individuals not being able to reach screens or navigate the system. Jordan says, “My strategy would be to simply keep them open!” noting current improvements being made for wheelchair accessibility and a government project to rebuild the area from the station to the Abbey.
Labour’s view on ticket office closures
While we did not receive any comments from the Labour or Conservative by-election candidates, a heated exchange in the Commons last week between Conservative rail minister Huw Merriman and Labour’s shadow transport secretary and MP for Sheffield Heeley, Louise Haigh, provided insight into the broader national debate.
Merriman defended the closures as an effort to modernize the railway system, stating that staff will still be available at stations to assist passengers. Haigh, however, accused the government of causing anxiety among vulnerable and disabled passengers and rail staff, describing the decision as already rubber-stamped with little consideration for their concerns.
National Day of Action and strike action
In the midst of this controversy, the Rail, Maritime, and Transport (RMT) union launched today a National Day of Action against ticket office closures, marked by protests at stations across the country. Mick Lynch, general secretary of RMT, stressed that the union and the public don’t want a “de-humanised railway” and called for public support in the ongoing consultation.
The RMT union also plans strike action on 20, 22, and 29 July over pay, conditions, and ticket office closures, further intensifying the ongoing debate about the future of railway stations.
These local and national responses underscore the importance of the issue, indicating that the fate of the ticket office at Selby station could be a consideration in the Selby and Ainsty by-election. The outpouring of opposition suggests a collective desire for a balance between modernization and maintaining critical human services. As the campaign unfolds, the candidates’ stances on this issue could shape their chances in the election.