There’s an institution in our town that’s older than the Victorian Arcade, Oakwell, or even The Civic –Barnsley Station rail ticket office! Whilst the building might have changed a few times since 1850, generations of passengers have bought tickets from a staffed booth. However, if the government gets its way, the shutters will come down permanently after 173 years. Barnsley is one of nearly 1,000 rail ticket offices across the country earmarked for closure, to be replaced with roving staff called ‘Journey Makers’ working fewer hours. Given this is the last remaining ticket office in the borough, I strongly oppose downgrading our station, which will put up barriers to local passengers accessing the rail network.

To make matters worse, the government initially gave Northern, who operate the station, just 23 days to consult on the proposals. There’s cheese in my fridge older than that. However, due to huge public pressure, the deadline has now been extended to Friday 1st September – and rightly so. I’ve had many constituents get in touch about the proposal. Each letter and email I’ve read from constituents says how much the ticket office is valued and how worse off we would be without it.

Elderly and disabled passengers will suffer the most, with worries over buying tickets and answering queries. Given that 22% of Barnsley Borough residents have a disability, above the national average, its closure will affect our area more than others. There’s no consideration of this or other factors like elderly and disabled people being less likely to own a car, use the internet, or have a smartphone. With all this in mind, these proposals are just mean.

However, everyone will lose out by closing the ticket office. If there's an incident, or if people don't feel safe, the ticket office is a clearly identifiable place to seek help. Some constituents say they will avoid using Barnsley station for this reason, and their concerns should be treated seriously. CCTV isn't enough. If the worst happens, we need proper guarantees that ‘Journey Makers’ will be easily found and have the right resources to help in these situations. Much better still, just keep the ticket office open.

Then there’s the mess the government created with smart ticketing in the North. As Mayor of South Yorkshire, I was aghast when they pulled the plug on Transport for the North’s work to introduce a smart ticketing system that would have covered Barnsley. If we continued this project, passengers could have tapped in and out of ticket gates with their contactless bank cards, like in London. Instead, we’re dealing with this closure proposal in a weaker position due to government cuts. As usual, the North will bear the brunt of bad decisions taken at desks in Whitehall.

I don't believe the train has left the station to stop these plans. I will fight hard to keep Barnsley's ticket office open, and many MPs of all parties will do so for their local ticket offices. The government has a huge fight on its hands.