Greater Anglia wants to close 47 of its 54 ticket offices across the region - leaving passengers to buy their tickets online or from machines on the station.

The only station in Suffolk to retain what will be called a "Customer Information Centre" is Ipswich. Other stations to retain a staffed centre include Colchester, Liverpool Street, Norwich and Cambridge.

At other stations extra staff will be on platforms at busy times to help passengers to buy tickets.

This is part of a national initiative launched by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) which represents train operators and Network Rail after being told by the government to cut costs.

The plan sparked fury from trade unions and disability groups, with concerns also raised by public transport organisations.

There are fears the move could lead to job losses and put some vulnerable passengers off train travel.

A spokesman for Greater Anglia said the company hoped to retrain or redeploy most of its ticket office staff - and was consulting unions about the plans.

On the Greater Anglia network about 16% of tickets are bought from traditional offices - slightly higher than the national figure of 12%. In 1995 82% of tickets were bought from offices.

Passengers will be asked to pay for journeys by tapping contactless cards on barriers, using self-service machines, or buying tickets from staff on station concourses or trains if possible.

An increasing number of travellers buy tickets online and have them on their smartphones.

Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia managing director, said: “The station proposals put forward today are aimed at providing a more modern and flexible service for our customers.

"They reflect the more convenient ways in which passengers are looking to buy their tickets and check travel information."

Transport Salaried Staffs Association interim general secretary Peter Pendle said: “We are clear the Government will face strong opposition from this union on the totally unnecessary mass closure of ticket offices.

“Ministers will soon realise that the public have no desire to see their rail network diminished in this way.”

Neil Middleton, director at pressure group Railfuture, urged the industry to “encourage more self-service but don’t force it”.

He said: “If this change drives passengers off the trains, then we’ll all be worse off.

“Even though there may be a cost saving, if fewer passengers are on the trains it is very easy to see that income will reduce.”

The industry is running a consultation on the proposals which runs until July 26.

This is being run through individual companies but the results will be used to make a national decision.

Once the consultation is finished the companies will spend three months talking to trades unions before announcing whether there are any changes to their plans.

They will then announce when the changes will be brought in.

There are some tickets that cannot currently be bought online or through ticket machines, including Greater Anglia's popular Angliaplus ticket which is used for leisure travel around the rural network.

The spokesman said these tickets would still be available from Customer Information Centres or from conductors on trains.

Although Greater Anglia is losing 87% of its ticket offices, it is faring better than some other companies.

Avanti West Coast is planning to close all its offices - meaning there will be no ticket offices at London Euston. Birmingham New Street or Manchester Picadilly stations.

There are fears that the closure will particularly affect older travellers who are not so familiar with travel aps and smartphones as younger passengers.

And rail minister Huw Merriman it would be good news for most passengers: “Instead of station staff being stuck behind the counter of a ticket office, new proposals for stations would free them up to get out and about on to station concourses and platforms, and no station will become unstaffed as a result of these changes.”