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RAIL workers are demanding that the government declare a “national emergency” following warnings that station staff face rising danger from angry commuters.
The TSSA union said the massive delays experienced by travellers on Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) routes constitute the largest transport breakdown in peacetime history, so ministers should convene a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee.
The union condemned the latest timetable unveiled by GTR this week – the third in two months – and criticised the company for doing nothing to improve services or alleviate the stress felt by commuters.
A survey of TSSA members, many of whom are station staff, shows a huge rise in anger at the delays among commuters.
Workers reported that this frustration is often directed at railway employees, with nearly all of TSSA’s members among GTR station staff having suffered some form of abuse as a result of cancelled trains.
The vast majority of station staff said that workplace anxiety has significantly increased since the timetabling chaos began in earnest.
Cancellations were so bad that staff reported passengers being “treated like animals” and “forced” onto packed trains that “clearly do not have the capacity” to hold them.
One station host said he had to attend to a commuter who experienced an epileptic fit because of the stress created by cancellations.
At another station, a worker reported having to watch passengers falling from trains onto the platform when the doors opened – with some being trampled on.
Virtually all respondents to the survey said the current heatwave had exacerbated manifestations of public hostility towards staff, due to mass overcrowding and a frequent lack of toilet or water facilities.
TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said that GTR’s inability to handle services is “nothing short of a national scandal” and should be considered by ministers a “national emergency.”
He added: “Overcrowding of carriages and platforms have escalated to seriously dangerous proportions for all concerned.
"Meanwhile, the Department for Transport has no grip on the situation.
“This week’s new timetable changes have made no difference to the trauma facing passengers, nor the abuse they are meting out in their frustration to staff.
“Our members are being turned into scapegoats.”
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