“The government plans to close all ticket offices,” claims RMT chief

"The government plans to close all ticket offices," claims RMT chief
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As the biggest railway strike in four decades began, the general secretary of the RMT union attacked the government’s plans for the railways, he says.

Mick Lynch claims ministers plan to close all ticket offices in the UK and remove guards from trains.

The rail union boss said: “We cannot go back to unmanned trains, as [former transport secretary] Grant Shapps called it.

“We cannot accept the closure of all ticket offices in the UK. That’s on the table. If Grant Shapps’ plan goes ahead, there will be no ticket office on the national rail network.”

The Department for Transport has insisted: “No final decision has been made on the ticket offices.”

Mr Lynch was speaking on a picket line at London’s Euston railway station, which is closed due to industrial action by four unions.

Train drivers affiliated with the Aslef union and members of the TSSA and Unite have coordinated disruptions which the RMT said would “effectively bring the railway to a standstill”.

In fact, around one in nine trains runs – mainly on intercity services between London and cities like Leeds, Sheffield, Bristol and Southampton.

The secretary-general said: “Companies will try to run a skeleton service, but it will not be something that the public can rely on, as far as we can see.”

Union bosses have met new Transport Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan at a meeting Mr Lynch described as “a good meeting, positive”.

Mrs. Trevelyan said that evening standard: “Hopefully my view of the world and ability to bring everyone together is something that will make everyone agree that we can find a landing zone that we can all live with.”

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the rail operators, said: “No final decision has been made on the ticket offices.

“We are looking at how we can move staff behind glass windows in ticket offices to provide personal assistance elsewhere in the station where they are closer to customers and can help them better.

“Today, only 13 percent of tickets are bought through a ticket office – and the trend is continuing to decline. When the industry was privatised, 82 percent of tickets were bought at a ticket office – today the technology has advanced significantly and less than one in eight tickets is now bought at a ticket office.

“Staff will always provide personal services on the railways, which can be crucial for those who need extra assistance and cannot or do not want to use contactless or mobile tickets. The reality is that ticket offices have seen a significant drop in passenger usage over the past decade.

“The changes would greatly enhance our ability to provide staff at the right place and time to help customers in a variety of ways, rather than being limited to just selling tickets. Staffing will continue to take customer and employee safety into account.”

The RMT general secretary said he is also aiming for significant salary increases.

“We’re not in [the point of addressing] paying at the moment,” Mr Lynch said. “You don’t get a raise if you don’t have a job, it’s as simple as that. And when you’re working 24/7, conditions are key.

“Once we have that worked out, we will move on to the wage agreement. We all know that inflation is very high. These members here from more than one company have not had a salary agreement for three years. And what Network Rail has been offering won’t solve that. That’s 8 percent over three years.

“Who knows what inflation is? We’ll get a number in a couple of weeks, but it’ll be in the teens, it could get higher. So there’s still a lot of work to be done on pay, but we’re not even ready to discuss it yet.”

Compared to before the coronavirus pandemic, revenue from train tickets has fallen by around 20 per cent – around £2billion a year.

Tim Shoveler, Network Rail’s chief negotiator, said times radio: “The railway is making a massive financial loss.”

He said Saturday’s industrial action “is designed only to ensure our employees are unnecessarily forgoing even more pay, causing even more disruption to our passengers and further hampering the railroad’s recovery from the pandemic.”

The Prime Minister said so The sun“We’re going to keep an iron grip on the national finances,” while an ally of Liz Truss – addressing Senior Secretary Simon Clarke – said Whitehall’s departments needed to “cut the fat”.

The Department for Transport said: “No final decision has yet been made on the ticket offices. Station staff are vital to passenger safety and passengers will always benefit from personal assistance at stations.

“The reality is that ticket office usage has declined significantly over the past decade, and by making station staff more adaptable, we will have a better railroad for passengers and taxpayers alike.”

A year ago, Ms Trevelyan campaigned against proposed cuts in ticket office hours at the station serving her Berwick-upon-Tweed constituency.

She told voters she had written to LNER, the state rail operator, saying: “I hope they will listen to passengers’ concerns and think about how we can ensure those who want to buy a ticket from one person at one.” stations are able to do that.”

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