Last week, the news broke that railway ticket offices across England - including all of those in our area - are set to close within the next three years.

While a short public consultation is under way and the government still needs to sign off on the proposals, it is widely believed that the decision is a foregone conclusion.

The result if it does go ahead? A service that is run for the benefit of the public will be actively made worse, justified by a vague idea of "modernising" it.

I can get over the ironing board seats, the cramped leg room, the open plan trains that may seem a good idea in theory, but in practice mean that the annoying bloke playing his music out loud can be heard from miles away.

But closing ticket offices is not a decision that will merely dampen our enjoyment of railway journeys - it will drive people away from them altogether, forcing them onto our over-congested roads at a time when we are supposed to be trying to switch to more sustainable modes of transport.

It is a decision that will most severely affect the elderly, the disabled, and the vulnerable, whose concerns have yet to be adequately addressed.

For these passengers, using public transport can already be a time-consuming, arduous or downright impossible experience, without another barrier being erected in front of them.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People, for example, has pointed out that a majority of the people they represent find it "impossible" to use ticket machines.

Similarly, many elderly people do not have a smartphone or prefer to use cash - which is not universally accepted at ticket machines.

But it isn't just these vulnerable groups who will be negatively impacted by closures - everyone who uses our railways will receive a poorer experience.

Who among us hasn't found ourselves befuddled by the vast array of different ticket types on offer, unsure which will get us to our destination most easily, cheaply, and at our preferred time?

It is ticket office staff who help us out there, as they do in many other situations - even for those, like myself, who gravitate towards ticket machines.

These machines are beset with problems. There are not enough of them, and those that we do have are often out of action, sometimes for extended periods of time.

And then there's the difficulty of using them. At a ticket office, you know that the person behind the computer is an expert who knows what they are doing. There is no such guarantee with these machines, where you are liable to get stuck behind somebody who has no idea how to buy the ticket they need.

It is worth pointing out that, according to the railway companies, staff currently working at ticket offices will be re-allocated to roles where they can provide assistance to passengers from elsewhere in the station.

Huw Merriman, the rail minister, told the House of Commons that these reforms "could enable staff to provide a more flexible, agile, and personal service, creating the modern experience that people expect".

Similarly, Jenny Saunders, customer services director for Govia Thameslink Railway, says that the proposals are an opportunity to "improve the experience of our customers".

Mr Merriman and Ms Saunders don't give details to explain their woolly comments. How, precisely, do they think these reforms will help passengers? No extra customer services will be provided. Instead, existing services will be maintained but with staff apparently roaming the station floor rather than in the place where passengers know they can be found.

The RMT union doubts whether even this will be the case, arguing that the move is a precursor to implementing swingeing job cuts.

Perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised at all this. The plans have been advanced by the Rail Delivery Group, formerly the Association of Train Operating Companies (AOTC), and they have history with prioritising profits over passengers.

Most notably, they delayed the introduction of the intuitive and affordable Oyster card tap-in and tap-out system at their stations, citing the cost of implementing it.

Some suspect the real reason the AOTC opposed the system was that they previously made money from people buying tickets that were more expensive than needed - as will happen nationally if ticket office closures go ahead.

Indeed, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that private companies will make hay from office closures.

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The train operators themselves may be able to cut costs with job cuts (even if they say none are imminent), and there's a bonus for the Trainline app too, because closures will inevitably see a rise in the number of people using it.

Great news for Trainline, because they take a five per cent commission on any tickets they sell - five per cent that would otherwise go to the Treasury. So, a private company benefits, and taxpayers suffer.

That issue could be solved if the equivalent app from Great British Railways, a public body, was anywhere near launch. But, despite being announced more than two years ago, it is nowhere to be seen and a contract has yet to be signed for it.

And that's the crux of it - there is no public benefit to these proposals. Instead, closing ticket offices is an opportunity for railway firms to make a quick buck at the expense of long-suffering passengers.

Thameslink's consultation on ticket office closures is available here.