LEIGH'S former MP and Greater Manchestr Mayor Andy Burnham has said that the mass closure of ticket offices at train stations across the country could be illegal.

It comes after train companies announced plans to close hundreds of ticket offices in England over the next three years, with 50 stations set to close around Greater Manchester.

Following the announcement from the Rail Delivery Group on Wednesday, Kuly 5, a 21-day public consultation has been launched to gather passengers’ views. But Mr Burnham says that the process of the consultation might not be legal.

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The Greater Manchester mayor said one train operator, in particular, has not assessed the impact the proposal would have on older and disabled people, although he did not name the operator.

Speaking on BBC Radio Manchester on Thursday, July 6, Mr Burnham said he would write to the transport secretary calling for the consultation to be halted.

He said: “This is really wrong on so many levels – but we’re going to take a stand. I will be writing to the transport secretary today and I think it is likely, in my view, that there’s a strong case that this process is not legal.”

Leigh Journal: The mayor said the decision is wrong on so many levelsThe mayor said the decision is wrong on so many levels (Image: GMCA)

The Labour mayor criticised the planned closures, saying it would ‘further destroy the already threadbare trust in train services across the north of England’.

He argued that ticket office staff provide advice for passengers, reassurance for older people and help for disabled people at train stations, and told listeners on his weekly radio phone-in that his team is looking into whether the consultation on the proposal is legal. 

He said: “The provisional advice I’ve got is that the train operators, one of them in particular, should have done, again, a provisional equality impact assessment. Particularly for the impact on older people or disabled people who will probably be the most impacted by this decision. They didn’t do it.

“I’m just finding out from my team therefore whether this consultation on this proposal is actually legal and I’m actually going to establish that in the course of today. And if it isn’t, as I don’t think it is, I will be writing to the transport secretary later today to tell him that this consultation must be immediately halted.”

Mr Burnham later said that if he cannot stop the government and the train companies closing ticket offices, he would be making the case again for stations in the city-region to be run by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM). He confirmed that the ticket office at Horwich Parkway train station which is already controlled by TfGM will not be closing as part of the proposal.

Rail Delivery Group, which represents train companies, has said that only 12 pc of tickets were sold at ticket offices last year with the rest bought online or from vending machines. It said the changes would be phased in gradually.