Jeremy Corbyn: Ticket office closures are ‘unnecessary, cruel and simply wrong’

Jeremy Corbyn calls on Labour to commit to nationalising the transport industry in exclusive interview

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn slammed plans to close railway ticket offices as ‘cruel and simply wrong’ whilst calling on Labour to commit to renationalising the transport system, in an interview with LFF.

“What we need is a real, public and clear determination by the Labour Party, not just to bring the train operating companies back into public ownership, but all the other aspects of the rail industry into public ownership,” said Corbyn.

“We need a publicly owned and publicly run transport system.”

Plans to close 1,000 ticket offices in Britain have led to fresh calls to renationalise the rail system, as a whistle-blower admitted the plan was in fact about cost cutting, as supposed to ‘digitalising’ the future of travel which the government claimed. Over 2,300 jobs are being put at risk by the plan.

Speaking at a rally to stop the planned ticket office closures, trade union supporter Corbyn also told LFF how technology should be used to enhance working conditions, not destroy them.

“Almost every job relies in some way or the other on computers. But it’s also about protecting people’s livelihoods and work,” said Corbyn.

“Now, we ought to be looking at the very advanced technology available as a way of shortening people’s working hours, giving them more leisure time and more ability to do other things, and investing more money in high labour intensity areas like health care and social care.”

However, he said what is happening instead is that high technology is “increasing the social and economic divide in our society”.

“It’s time we thought very carefully about the principles behind universal basic income as a way of defending and improving the living standards of the mass of the population,” Corbyn added.

“We’re already the most economically divided country in Europe. It’s just getting worse because we don’t have a government that’s remotely interested in closing that gap.

“We need a much clearer political strategy for reducing inequality, not increasing it.”

The former Labour leader laid out three main reasons why ticket office closures were wrong.

“First of all, it takes the jobs away from people that are doing a very important job,” started Corbyn. “Secondly, it makes our stations a more dangerous place because there will be nobody there at all at some.

“And thirdly, it’s part of a growing digital divide in the country where older people who may not have access to the internet, don’t carry an iPhone, don’t feel comfortable using the internet to buy tickets or the machine, simply will not travel, and they will end up going on long-distance coaches or not travelling at all.”

He continued: “And if you have special needs, a disability, sight difficulty, hearing difficulty, or your first language is not English, or you don’t speak any English at all, what are you supposed to do? Just puzzle and walk away? It’s unnecessary, cruel and simply wrong.”

Reflecting on the government’s intentions behind shutting the ticket office, Corbyn did not hold back.

“Well, if I want to be generous about the government, I’d say they don’t understand it, but I’m not generous about the government.

“They fully understand what they’re doing. They are just trying to allow even greater profits to be made out of our railway system, which has been sliced up, diced up, and privatized. Even the railway arches have been sold off.”

He hoped that this could present a turning point in the campaign for a society, ‘that’s more caring and more inclusive of people, rather than run by privateers.’

(Image credit: Flickr / Creative Commons)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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