Controversial plans to close the ticket offices at Runcorn and Widnes railway stations have been scrapped.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the Government has asked train operators to withdraw their proposals, which were brought forward earlier this year due to pressure from ministers to cut costs.

The plans would have seen almost 1,000 national ticket offices axed as part of cost-cutting measures. Both Widnes and Runcorn stations were on the hit-list, although Runcorn East had been spared.

The U-turn means all of Halton’s ticket offices will remain open.

The proposals had caused consternation across the borough, with Halton Council writing to the government urging a rethink, with pressure also being piled on from the borough’s MPs.

Mr Harper said: "We have engaged with accessibility groups throughout this process and listened carefully to passengers as well as my colleagues in Parliament.

"The proposals that have resulted from this process do not meet the high thresholds set by ministers, and so the Government has asked train operators to withdraw their proposals."

MP Mike Amesbury launched a petition to save local stations, including Runcorn and Northwich - which is in his Weaver Vale constituency.

Posting on Facebook Mr Amesbury, whose patch also covers East Runcorn, said: “A big thank you to all 643 people who signed my petition against the proposed closures sent to watchdog Transport Focus, who collated a staggering 750,000 consultation responses.

"There’s no doubt the campaign against ticket office closures did the trick. We made a difference and should be proud of ourselves!"

The plans had initially been proposed to save money, with backers claiming the number of people who bought physical tickets from offices had gone down and that ticket office staff would have been redeployed to platforms instead.

But among those criticising the move were disability rights campaigners, who said manned ticket offices were a lifeline for many with disabilities.

Katie Pennick, campaigns manager at accessibility charity Transport for All, also welcomed the news.

She added: "While we are proud of the incredible tenacity of disabled people and our community for securing this major campaign victory, the outcome is bittersweet.

"The disastrous and discriminatory proposals should never have been put forward."