MPs across Norfolk have reacted to the government's U-turn on the mass closure of railway station ticket offices. 

On Tuesday, transport secretary Mark Harper revealed Number 10 had asked asked train operators to withdraw their proposals following an extensive consultation period.

Norwich Evening News: Norwich Train Station's ticket office would have become a Customer Information CentreNorwich Train Station's ticket office would have become a Customer Information Centre (Image: Brittany Woodman)

Ticket offices at Great Yarmouth, King's Lynn, Thetford, Downham Market and Diss had been earmarked for closure by industry body Rail Delivery Group (RDG).

The facilities in Norwich would have become a Customer Information Centre, with Greater Anglia previously saying it would "offer a full range of products and provide help with more complex transactions".

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However, these proposals have now been axed in response to watchdogs Transport Focus and London TravelWatch, which announced they opposed every single planned closure due to issues such as the impact on accessibility.

Former prime minister and Conservative MP for South West Norfolk, Liz Truss, welcomed the decision: “When proposals were first mooted to close the ticket offices at Thetford and Downham Market, I urged Greater Anglia and Great Northern to rethink the move.

Norwich Evening News: Liz Truss, MP for South West NorfolkLiz Truss, MP for South West Norfolk (Image: PA)

“My postbag has been inundated with letters from constituents worried about what this would mean for vulnerable passengers unable to buy tickets online or from machines.

"I’m glad the Government appears to have understood the public mood on this issue in calling for the proposals to be shelved. Rail users will be reassured that they will still be able to purchase tickets and make enquiries about their travel at the ticket offices at Thetford and Downham Market."

A rail company source told the PA news agency the U-turn had caused "quiet fury" in the industry.

It comes as passenger numbers nationwide stand at their lowest since 2002 and revenue lies at 30pc below pre-Covid levels.

Norwich Evening News: Transport secretary Mark HarperTransport secretary Mark Harper (Image: PA)

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in September that closing ticket offices was "the right thing for the British public and British taxpayers" because "only one in 10 tickets are sold currently in ticket offices".

Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis also hailed the government's decision.

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"This is great news for the town and for rail passengers across the country," he said.

"I shared the concerns of constituents who were rightly worried about these proposals. And when I responded formally to the consultation, I highlighted these concerns, and the impact closure would have on an important gateway to the town.

Norwich Evening News: Great Yarmouth MP Brandon LewisGreat Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis (Image: House of Commons)

"I am now looking forward to the result of a government audit of all stations and their assessment of what changes can be made to benefit passengers.

"There is a fantastic opportunity following this decision. We can create a travel hub at the station, to provide travel and visitor information, whilst continuing to provide support to travellers who need it most."

Labour's candidate for Great Yarmouth Keir Cozens added: "One of my first acts as Labour’s candidate for Great Yarmouth was to campaign against the closure of our ticket office.

"I'm pleased that the Conservatives have changed course, thanks to the overwhelming local opposition to this move."

Norwich Evening News: Labour's candidate for Great Yarmouth, Keir CozensLabour's candidate for Great Yarmouth, Keir Cozens (Image: Keir Cozens)

Last week, the cross-party transport committee of MPs warned the plans went "too far, too fast" and described the consultation process as lacking in transparency.

Transport Focus's chief executive Anthony Smith said there had been around 750,000 responses to the consultation.

“This is the right decision that reflects my opposition to the planned closures which I’ve set out to ministers on behalf of local passengers," said James Wild, MP for North West Norfolk. 

"While many choose to buy online or at ticket machines, vulnerable people rely on the support provided by ticket office staff and stopping the closure of Lynn ticket office is welcome news for them."

Norwich Evening News: James Wild, MP for North West NorfolkJames Wild, MP for North West Norfolk (Image: House of Commons)

In his announcement on Tuesday, Mr Harper said the proposals did not "meet the high thresholds set by ministers, and so the government has asked train operators to withdraw their proposals". 

Speaking on the announcement, Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said: “The government is right to demand the highest of standards in this.

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"For Norwich, I sought clear reassurance from Greater Anglia for passengers and we knew that station opening times, accessibility and facilities would not change and they would add extra help on the concourse as well.

"I hope that Norwich passengers are reassured."

Norwich Evening News: Norwich North MP Chloe SmithNorwich North MP Chloe Smith (Image: PA)

The initial proposals had sparked fury across the Fine City, with local campaigners arguing disabled and elderly people had been "completely ignored".

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis also blasted the impact of privatisation on public services.

Speaking on Tuesday's government announcement, Mr Lewis said: "This is really great news. 

"It was a very bad idea. 

"Public services are public services and it shouldn't be the bottom line which decides if it's needed. 

"If they're needed then we should have them."

Norwich Evening News: Norwich South MP Clive LewisNorwich South MP Clive Lewis (Image: UK Parliament)

Mr Lewis's party colleague Alice Macdonald, who is hoping to win Norwich North in the next general election, added: "This Tory government U-turn is very welcome news for passengers and staff and should have happened much sooner. 

"It is testament to the many campaigners, trade unions and members of the British public - including right here in Norwich.

"Fundamentally we need a new approach to our railways that puts passengers first. That's why a Labour government would bring our railways back into public ownership where they belong."

Norwich Evening News: Labour's parliamentary candidate for Norwich North, Alice MacdonaldLabour's parliamentary candidate for Norwich North, Alice Macdonald (Image: Alice Macdonald)