AFTER it was announced in July that railway stations across the country, including Newton Abbot and Dawlish stations, could risk losing their ticket offices, the battle to save Devon’s railway station ticket offices has stepped up a gear.

Rail operators have been summoned to explain the issue at County Hall, after Devon County Councillors voted to call representatives of the rail companies before their scrutiny committee in a bid to save the service.

Up to 1,000 ticket offices are due to close over the next three years, with rail companies claiming it will allow them to move staff into more useful roles on station platforms.

They say fewer train tickets are being bought over the counter, with the majority of sales online or from ticket machines.

This has sparked fears of countless job losses occurring across the rail industry.

Disability groups have led the protests, arguing that manned counters provide a vital service, and some stations in rural Devon still have the highest proportion of in-person sales in the country.

Cllr Alan Connett (Exminster and Haldon) urged his colleagues to support the campaign, and although members were warned that the official consultation has ended, Cllr David Cox (Teignmouth) said the county council’s voice could still be heard.

The county council has now resolved to make its case strongly to transport secretary Mark Harper and to underline its opposition in writing to the rail operators.

Rail company representatives will also be invited to attend a scrutiny meeting as soon as possible.

Cllr Julian Brazil said: ‘I am delighted that our motion to Full Council at Devon County was passed unanimously. The motion called for a halt to planned closures of staffed train ticket offices in Devon.

'We can now question the rail companies at a scrutiny meeting. From banks and post offices to train tickets, we must stop those with the greatest needs being left behind.

'I hope the companies will listen.’

At the time of the announcement, Jacqueline Starr, Rail Delivery Group chief executive, said: ‘The ways our customers buy tickets has changed and it’s time for the railway to change with them.

'With just 12% of tickets being sold from ticket offices last year, and 99% of those transactions being available on TVMs or online, our proposals would mean more staff on hand on to give face to face help with a much wider range of support, from journey planning, to finding the right ticket and helping those with accessibility needs.’