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Industrial RMT plans massive train ticket offices march on August 31

Industrial reporter

RAIL workers, passengers and campaigners are set to take the fight to save England’s ticket offices to the doorstep of 10 Downing Street, transport union RMT warned over the weekend.

The mass rally — planned for central London on August 31 — will see the union’s members and supporters from across the political spectrum “tell the Tory government in no uncertain terms that ticket offices must be saved,” RMT stressed.

The demo is due the day before a public consultation on the future of kiosks across country is due to close.

The consultation, launched after rail bosses under pressure from austerity-addicted ministers announced plans to shut most ticket offices for good, putting 2,300 jobs at risk, was extended in July following a flood of responses which the union said now totals nearly 400,000.

General secretary Mick Lynch said: “The public response to the government wanting to shut every ticket office has been very encouraging.

“People from different walks of life recognise the value of ticket offices and the station staff that support passengers on their journeys.

“Rail companies and their masters in government do not care one jot about disabled people, vulnerable passengers and those travelling alone who welcome a human presence on our railways.”

According to the BBC, 299 stations run by train companies with Department for Transport (DfT) contracts across England have a full-time staffed ticket office, with 708 manned part-time. Under the proposals, the vast majority would be shut down.

Train-operating companies, which are coming under increasing pressure from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to make savings, argue that only 12 per cent of tickets are now bought at station kiosks, with most purchased online.

But RMT has continued to pepper its social media channels with pictures and videos of busy ticket offices across the country, with the ironic comment: “Nobody uses ticket offices anymore!”

The union has joined fellow transport union TSSA to stress that older people and disabled passengers are often reliant on kiosks to buy tickets and seek advice and support.

TSSA warned last week that the “senseless and cruel policy” will also affect busy ticket offices at Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley. 

Both unions have also stressed that a further de-staffing of the railway would leave all passengers at risk from anti-social behaviour, pickpockets, muggers and potential emergencies including fires and derailments.

“These plans lock in age and disability discrimination and if they are carried out, it will mean many vulnerable passengers will not feel safe using the network,” Mr Lynch warned.

“I urge everyone to take part in the consultation — but our campaign will continue after September 1.

“We will be lobbying MPs, several of whom from across the political spectrum have been supportive of our campaign, and RMT will increase the pressure on the government to abandon its increasingly unpopular policy.”

Ministers have claimed to be independent actors in the latest dispute between unions and private train operators, which follows more than a year of industrial action on the network over pay, jobs and working conditions. 

But unions have noted that the DfT dictates the remit of employers as per their contracts.

The public consultation can be accessed here: https://www.transportfocus.org.uk/ticket-office-consultation/ 

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