PLANS to scrap the closure of railway ticket offices have been welcomed by Cheshire passengers, unions and MPs.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper today confirmed that ‘the government has asked train operators to withdraw their proposals’.

Knutsford, Wilmslow, Handforth and Alderley Edge were among 130 Northern stations that would have been affected in the nationwide cull.

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Hugh Everett, secretary of Friends of Handforth Station, said: “Hooray! We’re very pleased our station ticket office will remain open.

“This will be a great relief for people who have mental difficulties or physical disabilities.

“They would have been disadvantaged and suffered the most,  including many vulnerable people with hearing or sight problems.

“We were much more concerned that the hours of staff attendance on site would have been drastically reduced.”

Many passengers, he said, rely on being able to seek advice or help from a member of staff at the station.

A huge public backlash to the cost-cutting proposals saw 750,000 responses, the largest ever in a public consultation.

A staggering 99 per cent of the feedback were objections.

Hugh hopes their campaign to stop the closures may have helped.

“We held demonstrations, urged people to write to the MPs and put up posters,” he said.

“We had loads of comments back from the local community and forwarded them all on to the consultation.”

Tatton MP Esther McVey also welcomed the announcement.

She said: “I am delighted that ticket offices across the country will remain open.

“This is something I campaigned for and know it will be welcomed across the constituency.

“Ticket offices at Knutsford, Wilmslow, Handforth and Alderley Edge are extremely valued by rail users, many of who contacted me to raise their concerns that offices could close.

“At the earliest opportunity I met with the Rail Minister and Secretary of State to make it clear the strength of feeling locally and also set out my belief the offices should remain open.

“I am pleased common sense has prevailed and the offices will remain open to support all rail customers across Tatton and the rest of the country.”

Rail union TSSA was at the forefront of a sustained campaign to ‘Save Ticket Offices’.

Maryam Eslamdoust, TSSA general secretary, said: “Our union has fought tooth and nail for many months to stop what would have been a catastrophe for our railways.

“We are delighted that the government has admitted defeat and scrapped these wrongheaded plans.

“It shows the power of our union and of the great British public in making sure these planned closures have now reached the end of the line.”

Matt Stringer, RNIB chief executive, said: “We are delighted the voice of blind and partially sighted people has been heard, and the Minister has made this change.

"It’s essential the experiences of people with sight loss are properly understood in decision-making.

"These closures would have left many blind and partially sighted people unable to live a full life, without a means to see family, go to their health appointments and play their part in our communities.  

“We welcome the Minister’s commitment to form a working group with a variety of organisations to ensure a better train travelling experience in the future, with accessible technology and infrastructure improvements at its heart. 

“The huge upswell of concern by blind and partially sighted people was unprecedented within the community, as was the huge public opposition to the plans.

"These prove that nothing can replicate having a fixed train ticket location and office staff available as the first point of contact for many kinds of staff assistance.

"Staff can make sure the correct tickets and concessions are bought, let people know if the lifts are out of use or advise on cancelled or delayed trains.

"This flexible, and often vital, assistance for blind and partially sighted people is not something apps or ticket machines can replicate.” 

RNIB research shows that only three per cent of people with sight loss said they could use a ticket vending machine without problems and 58 per cent said it was impossible.

Online ticket websites and apps exclude the large number of blind and partially sighted people without internet or smartphones. 

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “The consultation on ticket offices has now ended, with the government making it clear to the rail industry throughout the process that any resulting proposals must meet a high threshold of serving passengers.

“We have engaged with accessibility groups and listened carefully to passengers as well as my colleagues in parliament.

“The proposals that have resulted from this process do not meet the high thresholds set by ministers, and so the government has asked train operators to withdraw their proposals.”