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Legal challenge over rail ticket office closures dropped after Government U-turn

Proposals to close railway station ticket offices across England were scrapped in October (Lucy North/PA)
Proposals to close railway station ticket offices across England were scrapped in October (Lucy North/PA)

Two disabled passengers have withdrawn a High Court challenge against rail companies after controversial plans to close ticket offices across England were scrapped.

Sarah Leadbetter, from Leicestershire, who is registered blind, and Doug Paulley, a wheelchair user from West Yorkshire who has hearing loss, launched legal action over claims a consultation into the now-abandoned proposals was unfair and did not give people the opportunity to meaningfully respond.

In October, the Government announced a U-turn over the plans to close the vast majority of railways station ticket offices in England.

Train operators were asked to withdraw the proposals as they “do not meet the high thresholds set by ministers”.

In a short written ruling on Wednesday, Mr Justice Fordham said Ms Leadbetter and Mr Paulley had decided it was “no longer necessary” for a judge “to determine the merits of the points of principle raised in their claim”.

Ticket office closures protest banner
A ticket office closure protest banner outside a railway station in Apsley, Hertfordshire (Brian Farmer/PA)

The judge added: “They are satisfied that if any of the defendants consult upon revised proposals at some later date, then any concerns that they may have about the fairness of any consultation conducted with respect of the same would be better dealt with by way of fresh proceedings.”

The two rail users originally announced their claim against London North Eastern Railway Limited, Northern Trains Limited, SE Trains Limited and Transpennine Trains Limited in early October.

It came after a summer consultation on the closure proposals was extended after a huge response from the public.

Ms Leadbetter and Mr Paulley claimed the consultation had “multiple, serious flaws”, including a failure to provide disabled people with enough information about how the changes will affect them and to provide accessible consultation documents.

Train Operating Companies denied the consultation was inadequate and argued they did provide consultation material in accessible formats.

The plans were brought forward by train operators in July with support from the Government, which had put pressure on the sector to cut costs.

But the proposals were scrapped by Transport Secretary Mark Harper in response to watchdogs Transport Focus and London TravelWatch announcing they opposed every single planned closure due to issues such as the impact on accessibility.