Rail union members back strike action over cuts to Southern ticket offices

Rail union members have backed strike action over cuts to station ticket office opening hours.

Govia Thameslink Railway, which runs Southern, Gatwick Express, and Thameslink services, is proposing to bring in ‘station hosts’ to sell tickets on concourses, while most station ticket offices would only be open during peak hours, normally between 7-10am.

More than two thirds of members of the RMT union who responded to the ballot voted in favour of strike action, while almost 80 per cent voted in favour of industrial action short of a strike.

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The result will now be considered by the union’s executive committee.

RMT assistant general secretary Steve Hedley said: “The Govia Thamelink franchise is in meltdown and not fit for purpose. Not content with axing catering services, closing ticket offices and attacking the role of their guards they now want to threaten 130 station jobs and compromise the safety of both their passengers and staff alike.

“These plans fly in the face of the response from the thousands of passengers who objected to the closure of ticket offices and the de-staffing of stations as Govia drives on with plans for a ‘faceless railway’ where the public are left to fend for themselves on rammed-out, dangerous and unreliable services.

“In light of this strong mandate from our members our National Executive Committee will be considering the course of industrial action.”

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A number of locations would only have their ticket office open from 7-10am from Monday to Friday, including Angmering, Barnham, Bexhill, Bognor Regis, Burgess Hill, Chichester, East Grinstead, Eastbourne, Hassocks, Horley, Horsham, Hove, Lewes, Littlehampton, Polegate, and Shoreham.

Crawley will be open from 8-11am, Portslade will be open from 8.55-10am, with Worthing open from 7.30-10.30am.

Meanwhile ticket offices would close completely at Falmer and Lancing.

The concept is due to be ‘soft launched’ at a small number of stations towards the end of the summer before being rolled across all the affected locations.

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According to the RMT, the proposals will have a ‘devastating impact on both staff and the safety and services offered to the travelling public’.

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) is also balloting its members on possible strike action over the cuts.

The RMT has already held four separate wakouts between April and August over GTR’s plans to change the role of conductors.

The company is looking to bring in driver only-operation on Southern services, where drivers instead of conductors would operate the train doors.

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It claims the system is already in place on other services across the country, but the union has raised safety concerns.

Talks to solve the dispute, which has seen passengers face months of disruption due to staff shortages, ended on Monday (August 16) with no agreement in place.

GTR said it would forge ahead with its ‘modernisation plans’.