RMT ticket office closures: Mick Lynch warns Tories of ‘a storm coming’ at Downing Street rally
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Up to 1,000 ticket offices are potentially going to be shut over the next three years under government plans, with train operators saying customers will be better served by staff members being relocated to provide more face-to-face support.
Unions, including the RMT, have however railed against the move, saying 2,300 station staff jobs are in jeopardy.
The impact of ticket closures on those with disabilities and pensioners has also raised concerns from a range of associated groups, such as Transport for All.
A consultation on the potential closures ends at midnight tonight (September 1), having been extended following an outcry over its initial three-week run-time. Around half a million responses have been submitted in response.
At an RMT rally held last night (August 31) outside Downing Street, members from as far as Newcastle gathered to show their opposition.
Amid a backdrop of whistles and chants, speakers including Coventry South’s Labour MP Zara Sultana, ASLEF’s general secretary Mick Whelan and Paula Peters from Disabled People Against The Cuts detailed the impact of the closures on rail workers and communities.
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was also among those to take to the stage, praising the work RMT members and other train staff do, while warning against the removal of ticket offices and “the human face” of stations.
He later told LondonWorld: “Ticket offices are an important part of our community. Obviously those that work in them do a great job, but there’s also those other things they do beside selling tickets; giving people support, giving people advice, and making sure they get to where they need to go.”
Mr Lynch told the large crowd the plans to close the ticket offices are symbolic of a wider attack on the rail industry. “We demand our rights, we will protest for our rights, we will fight for our rights, and we will take industrial action,” he said.
Slamming the government’s pay offer of 9% over four years as “poxy”, Mr Lynch described the union’s actions as “a fight for the future of the railway workers, it’s a fight for the future of our communities”.
On the potential closure of ticket offices specifically, he said people are “sick and tired of communities being hollowed out in the name of profit and modernisation”.
“People don’t just want to be ripped off by the algorithm and artificial intelligence, which is what you’re going to get going forward, not the human hand or the human smile, or the kind gesture.”
As the sky quickly turned an increasingly darker shade of grey, Mr Lynch ended by saying: “There’s a storm coming. Make sure the Tories feel it.”
Jacqueline Starr, RDG chief executive, previously told LondonWorld: "Our commitment is that we will always treat our staff, who are hugely valued and integral to the experience our customers have on the railway, fairly, with support and extra training to move into new more engaging roles.
"We also understand that our customers have differing needs, which is why the industry widely sought the views of accessibility and passenger groups when creating these proposals, and will continue through the consultation."
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Train operator consultations on ticket offices are ongoing and no final decisions have been made.”
The rally was held a night before two days of industrial action across the UK’s train lines by ASLEF and RMT members, as part of an ongoing dispute with the government over pay.