The following letter on the government's U-turn on plans to close all railway station ticket offices in Exeter and Devon is from Councillor Catherine Rees.
The screeching halt to the closure of railway ticket offices is a huge victory for people power. Across the country, including in Exeter, people have protested, signed petitions and responded to the consultation in their thousands, leaving the government unable to ignore the strength of feeling.
Exeter’s six Green Party councillors were part of this groundswell of opposition and submitted an objection to plans to close all ticket offices in Devon. We made clear that we wouldn’t support any changes that would make it harder for people to travel by train.
This should be a red signal for the government to end the wasteful, fragmented and expensive privatised railway system. The Green Party wants to see our railways work for people not profit - an integrated publicly owned network of track and trains, operating in the interests of passengers not shareholders.
More broadly, our region desperately needs improved train services. In particular we need to see the implementation of the long-proposed “Devon Metro” plan for at least half-hourly services on all local routes around Exeter. A frequency of 15 minutes on the busiest sections would result in a proper Metro service.
All this will require new infrastructure such as doubling single track lines and new trains. But if ever a region has a case to make for increased rail investment, it is the South West. In 2022, the region received just £423 per capita expenditure on transport, the second lowest in the UK. This compared to £1212 per capita in London.
Bringing our railways back under public control and investing in local rail services is just the ticket.
Cllr Catherine Rees, Green Party councillor in Heavitree