Disabled activists rail against ticket office closures

Visually-impaired Imtiaz Patel says he has enough problems at East Ham station as it is

Visually-impaired Imtiaz Patel says he has enough problems at East Ham station as it is - Credit: Vickie Flores

A major transport charity claims London Mayor Boris Johnson risks undermining the freedom of disabled commuters by removing Tube ticket offices.

Transport for All (TfA) members raised concerns regarding Mr Johnson’s Fit for the Future plan, which involve closing all 301 ticket offices and making 897 ticket officers redundant by next spring.

Imtiaz Patel, a visually-impaired TfA member who was forced into early retirement because of his disability, said he regularly has problems at East Ham station and that this move will only make things worse.

“I need assistance just to get down the stairs,” he said. “Nine-hundred job cuts is going to mean there are less people around to help. It’s going to have a major impact and make it even more difficult to travel – it’s a big disappointment.

“We don’t know what assistance will be at the other end of our journeys instead of ticket offices.”

Transport for London (TfL) claims redeploying remaining ticket officers will benefit passengers.

“They can serve the public better around the station than stuck in an office,” a spokesman said. “There will be more people than ever before to assist in public areas.”

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But Imtiaz still has reservations, adding: “The font on the machines is too small – they’re so stressful to use.”

London Assembly member Val Shawcross has also opposed the cuts in a short film, Unfit for the Future, in which she heard from TfA’s Mike Theobald.

The hearing-aid user warned against redeployment, saying offices enabled deaf people to use the “T” position on hearing aids to hone in on ticket officers speaking from behind a screen. He says this clarity will vanish with closures as the setting will not differentiate between on-platform instructions and background noise.

Jennette Arnold, London Assembly Member, backed the video. “Staff cuts risk making life much harder for people with disabilities,” she said. “It isn’t at all clear the mayor has taken proper account of the impact.” She warned the scheme will cost the taxpayer £134million.

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