Devon politicians across party lines have cheered the government’s U-turn on proposals to close hundreds of train ticket offices.

The Conservative leader of Devon County Council, John Hart, said his authority voted against the closures, while Tiverton and Honiton MP Richard Foord (Lib Dem) said he had raised the issue multiple times in Parliament.

East Devon MP Simon Jupp (Conservative) also expressed concern and said he made his “views clear” about the plans to shut ticket offices in and around his constituency, including Exmouth, Honiton, Exeter St David’s, Feniton and Axminster.

In September, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said closing ticket offices was “the right thing for the British public and British taxpayers” as “only one in 10 tickets are sold currently in ticket offices”.

But a public consultation on the proposals to shut 974 ticket offices attracted 750,000 responses, with almost all comments being objections, according to the organisations managing the survey.

Yesterday, Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the government had asked train operators to withdraw their proposals, given the strength of feeling.

Although only around 12 per cent of train tickets are purchased at ticket offices, Devon’s more elderly and rural population tends to use ticket offices more frequently than the national average, according to the county council.

“Devon County Council voted unanimously to oppose the closures and lobby strongly for them to be retained,” Mr Hart said.

“Devon is a very rural county with a higher than average number of older people who often rely on this service.

“Our cabinet member [for transport], Andrea Davis, who chairs the Peninsula Transport board, has also been very vocal in making our views known to the rail operators and ministers. This is a sensible, commonsense decision.”

Meanwhile Mr Foord, who wrote to South Western Railway and Great Western Railway about the potential impact for his constituency, said the U-turn was a “big win” for community campaigners.

“The scrapping of plans to close our local ticket offices is welcome news as we know how helpful they are to elderly and vulnerable passengers, and the huge benefit that ticket office staff offer rail users,” he said.

“The question is, why did it take the government so long to act? The damage that these changes would have caused was visible from space.

“The public backlash showed a strength of feeling that makes it plain this decision should have been made ages ago.”

The proposals had been made by the rail industry as a way to reduce costs, given that government financial support (£13.3 billion) now outweighs passenger revenue (£6.5 billion) as the main income source following the pandemic.