We are ‘not ready for total automation’ on railway ticket offices

So, after the Bank Holiday I was straight back to meeting constituents and holding surgeries.

I took the opportunity last week to meet accessible travel campaigner Anthony Jennings, and Jacqui Russell from the Office of Road and Rail, to discuss Northern’s plan to close the ticket office at Ulverston[1] Station.

I’m opposed to Northern’s plan and have submitted a formal objection on behalf of constituents.

One day the world might be ready for fully automatic ticketing and unstaffed stations, but it isn’t yet.

So for now, it is essential that train operators maintain safe and flexible staffing for all.

In Ulverston, station staff are essential to make the accessible crossing available. Northern’s suggestion that there would in future be a staff member on site for only a couple of hours each weekday is totally inadequate.

It is hard to envisage how their proposal would even be compliant with equality law. In addition to my consultation response on the subject, therefore, I have also written to Northern to object to their plans; conducted a constituency survey; and have met with Huw Merriman MP, the Minister for Rail.

On Friday I took the opportunity to travel up to Calder Bridge to meet the Civil Nuclear Constabulary.

It was fascinating to learn more about its work to protect civil nuclear sites across the UK, including around Sellafield. It is a remarkable organisation, operating with very little publicity. All police forces have a low margin for error.

When defending nuclear sites from terrorists and other threats, however, that margin is reduced to zero. Seeing them train, and the tools they have at their disposal to keep Sellafield and the thousands of people who work there safe, was extraordinary.

As a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, I shall be raising with the Chairman the possibility that their work should be aligned with that of the wider policing family, (eg the British Transport Police and National Police Forces) to facilitate the transfer of skills between the various organisations.

Speaking of the Home Affairs Select Committee, this week saw the publication of its report on Drugs. This was our focus for much of last year, and its findings and recommendations are thorough and far-reaching.

As such, I will not cover them in detail here, except to say that we recommend a proper balance of public health interventions aimed at reducing illicit drug use in the longer term, alongside the work already being done to disrupt demand.

We believe that this approach would be best supported by making drug policy the joint responsibility of the Home Office and the Department of Health, with a minister sitting across both departments.

I know first-hand in Barrow[2] and Furness how destructive drugs can be to communities and families. It makes complete sense that, in future, treatment is given equal prominence to enforcement, rather than the emphasis being given to the latter.

The committee met dozens of witnesses, travelled across the UK, read thousands of pages of evidence, and worked hard to deliver this report. We believe our proposals are pragmatic, workable, and will improve outcomes. Now we wait for the Home Office to respond.


  1. ^ Ulverston (www.nwemail.co.uk)
  2. ^ Barrow (www.nwemail.co.uk)