Charities on the Isle of Wight have labelled national plans to shut train ticket offices 'discriminatory' and say they have 'deep concerns' over the impact closures could have on disabled and elderly Islanders.

South Western Railway (SWR) has announced proposals to close offices across the country, including the two at Island Line stations in Shanklin and Ryde Esplanade.

Over the last decade, it claims customers have shifted to buying their tickets online or through machines, rather than at ticket offices.

"Disabled people will be greatly disadvantaged"

Proposals have prompted anger from charities, including Isle Access, which aims to make the Island 'more accessible'.

Speaking to the County Press, CEO Jan Brookes said: "The plans certainly breach the equality act by not providing equal access for disabled people.

"23 per cent of disabled people don't use the internet and some prefer to pay by cash. The machines aren't suitable for people who are blind and they don't offer the full range of tickets.

"You need that human contact. You need a point where people can go.

"A lot of disabled people will just choose not to use the trains."

Isle of Wight County Press: CEO of Isle Access, Jan Brookes, outside Ryde's new train ticket office.CEO of Isle Access, Jan Brookes, outside Ryde's new train ticket office. (Image: Isle of Wight County Press)

Jan's concerns are also shared by Age UK Isle of Wight, which is separate from the national branch.

Maria Bunce, chief operating officer, said: "Many of our clients do not have smart phones or access to the internet, and issues such as impaired sight or arthritis can make using ticket machines a challenge.

"Older people, and those with other life challenges, rely on the helpful staff at ticket offices to assist them in getting the best ticket deals, or answering other queries."

A spokesperson for SWR told the County Press there is 'an industry-wide pledge' to ensure customers with accessibility needs are supported.

SWR's consultation states that staff will be 'multi-skilled', allowing them to be able to help those who struggle with phone tickets or machines.

Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely has confirmed he has written to SWR 'to demand answers.'

Finding help on platforms

For Lisa Hollyhead, who is registered Deafblind, the biggest problem is going to be finding help.

SWR has said staff will be on hand on platforms at each station to assist customers.

But Lisa, who is the CEO of charity Sight for Wight, fears it isn't going to be easy.

She said: "Currently finding the ticket office is a fairly simple procedure.

"Often platforms are very crowded places and trying to negotiate your way across a platform to find the person to find the ticket to get on the train whilst a number of other sighted people are ahead of you means in reality you are last in the queue, again."

Changes to station hours

Concerns have also been raised about train staff only being available on platforms during peak hours.

Although SWR's consultation states this will not be the case on the Island Line, changes will see a slight reduction in hours at Ryde Esplanade.

Isle of Wight County Press:

It would be staffed from 6am to 7pm every day of the week. Currently, the ticket office opens at 5.25am on weekdays.

At Shanklin Train Station, staff will only be on hand for four hours, between 6am and 10am, on Tuesday to Friday, and between 9am to 1pm on Saturdays. The station would be unstaffed on Sundays and Mondays.

Will Ryde's new ticket office become a ‘wasted space'?

An Isle of Wight councillor has spoken of his 'frustration' over plans to close Ryde Esplanade's new ticket office.

It only recently opened as part of the £10 million Ryde Interchange plan.

Cllr Phil Jordan, Cabinet member for transport, said before the scheme was approved nearly two years ago, SWR assured him that there was still a need for an office.

Isle of Wight County Press: Ryde's new ticket office is set to close.Ryde's new ticket office is set to close. (Image: Isle of Wight County Press)

Isle of Wight County Press: Inside Ryde's new ticket office, which is set to close.Inside Ryde's new ticket office, which is set to close. (Image: Isle of Wight County Press)

He said: “I have asked that we get guarantees from SWR that the space set aside for this office is re-purposed and kept open as either a waiting area or as a retail area.

“I would be disappointed if the ticket office was now simply closed and shut up indefinitely as a wasted space and a deteriorating image within the station itself.”

When asked by the County Press, SWR would not comment on what will happen to the office.

What happens now?

No closures are expected to take place before the autumn, SWR has confirmed.

A consultation is underway, with Islanders urged to have their say.

Watchdog Transport Focus will consider the impact on passengers’ ability to buy tickets, staffing levels at stations and services for disabled people. 

You can email to have your say.

The consultation closes next week (July 26).