Mick Lynch slams ticket office closures as ‘savage attack’ on rail workers and travellers

Union condemns the 'fat cat rail operators’ and government over the move

Mick Lynch

Plans for the mass closure of England’s ticket offices has been confirmed despite condemnation from unions and campaigners for passenger safety.

General secretary of the RMT union, Mick Lynch, has condemned ‘fat car rail operators’ and the government for attempting to ‘decimate the railways’ in the move, which will see staff moved onto concourses to sell tickets.

Lynch blasted the closures as a ‘savage attack on railway workers, their families and the travelling public’ as he warned of the ‘catastrophic’ implications for elderly, disabled and vulnerable passengers using the rail services.

All 1,000 station ticket offices across England will be closed over the next three years whilst hundreds of rail workers face statutory redundancy notices, the RMT union warned.

Unions and campaigners are set to vehemently oppose the plans in what the RMT said will be a strong industrial and political campaign to resist the closures and station staff cuts.

Disability rights organisations have highlighted how vulnerable and disabled passengers will be disproportionately affected by the closure of the offices and have called for urgent action to address these concerns.   

The move has been put down to ‘modernisation’ of the rail services, as the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) chief executive, Jacqueline Starr, said: “The ways our customers buy tickets has changed and it’s time for the railway to change with them”. Only 12% of tickets are now bought at offices.

However, the RMT leader blasted these claims as an attempt to cover for the fact the rail operators and government wish to cut costs on staffing to increase profit and to, ‘pave the way for a massive de-staffing of the rail network’.  

According to the rail union, some train operators are cutting two thirds of their workforce, as members faced statutory redundancy notices today.

“It is clear that the whole enterprise of closing ticket offices has got nothing to do with modernisation and is a thinly veiled plan to gut our railways of station staff,” said Lynch.

“Fat cat rail operators and the government do not care one jot about passenger safety, or a well-staffed and friendly railway open to all to use.

“They want to cut costs, make profits for shareholders, and run the network into the ground without a thought as to the vital role the rail industry plays in the country’s economy.”

The TSSA rail union has also come out to express strong opposition against the mass closures, which they said will leave millions facing a ‘cold Christmas’ when the offices are closed this winter.

TSSA Interim General Secretary, Peter Pendle said ministers will come to realise that the public have ‘no desire to see their rail network diminished in this way’.

“The inescapable fact is booking office staff are vital because they give passengers advice and assistance on ticket information, station security and can assist those with disabilities, limited mobility or young children,” said Pendle.

Research from the passenger watchdog, Transport Focus, confirmed a, ‘consistent message coming through about staff: passengers like and value having staff around’.

RMT strikes are set to take place on July 20, 22 and 29 concerning 20,000 railway workers which will see considerable disruption on rail networks.

Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward

Left Foot Forward’s trade union reporting is supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust

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