Tourists looking for Watford’s Harry Potter studios could be left stranded by ticket office closures, councillors fear.

Hertfordshire’s district and borough councils are scrambling to oppose plans to shut almost all railway station ticket desks in the county.

Cross-party politicians have warned mobility impaired people, elderly people and tourists could be put off travelling around Hertfordshire by train if it becomes harder to find in-person advice at the station.

Watford Observer: The consultation to stop ticket closures finishes on July 26The consultation to stop ticket closures finishes on July 26 (Image: Will Durrant/LDRs)

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents UK train firms, said the proposals are “designed to move staff out of ticket offices and onto station platforms to support better, face-to-face interaction”.

A three-week consultation launched earlier this month and will close on Wednesday, July 26.

Click here for more information on the Watford consultation.

But borough councils in Stevenage and Watford have agreed they formally object to the plans, with councils in Broxbourne and East Hertfordshire due to debate their position before the consultation ends.

Labour councillor Dennis Watling, who represents Callowland in Watford, said: “We have lots of human traffic in Watford, especially for Warner Bros Studio Tour.

“A lot of people will be staying in Watford for [Wembley] cup finals because it’s cheaper to stay outside of London.

“At many stations, ticket office staff are the only ones present, and some passengers will only travel at times where there is somebody available.”

Watford Observer: The Harry Potter bus in WatfordThe Harry Potter bus in Watford (Image: Will Durrant)

Cllr Watling, who has a visual impairment himself, noted Guide Dogs for the Blind and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) have both voiced opposition to the proposals.

He added he recently met a couple stranded at Watford Met station, a London Underground stop with no ticket office, who were looking for the Harry Potter Studio Tour bus from Watford Junction – one mile away.

“Had station staff been there to help, they would have been on their way a lot sooner,” Cllr Watling said.

The Labour and Liberal Democrat groups backed a motion which compels Mayor Peter Taylor to voice the borough’s opposition in a letter to Huw Merriman MP, the rail minister.

Liberal Democrat councillor Marilyn Devonish who represents, Watford Central, said: “When I’m coming back at two o’clock in the morning, there is a sense of relief there are staff at that station.

“It’s one of the things which acts as a deterrent.

“If we are talking about safety, police presence and women feeling safe in Watford, having that presence in the ticket office is a really important part of preserving that in our community.

“Once it’s lost, I don’t think it’s ever going to come back.”

The RDG’s plan would see almost all ticket offices in and around Hertfordshire shut down.

At some busier stations, new customer information centres would be set up – at St Albans City, Stansted Airport, Stevenage, Watford Junction and Welwyn Garden City.

The RDG said ticket offices sold 82 per cent of tickets when the current system was set up – in the mid 1990s – but this figure has since dropped to 12 per cent on average.

“The ways our customers buy tickets has changed and it’s time for the railway to change with them,” Jacqueline Starr, RDG chief executive, said.

“With just 12 per cent of tickets being sold from ticket offices last year, and 99 per cent of those transactions being available on ticket vending machines 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.

“Our commitment is that we will always treat our staff, who are hugely valued and integral to the experience our customers have on the railway, fairly, with support and extra training to move into new more engaging roles.

“We also understand that our customers have differing needs, which is why the industry widely sought the views of accessibility and passenger groups when creating these proposals, and will continue through the consultation.”

The consultations are on the Transport Focus and London TravelWatch websites, and have received more than 100,000 responses so far.