England

RMT calls strike ballot of Govia Thameslink station staff

RMT protest
Image caption The RMT has already staged a series of walkouts about changing the role of conductors

Britain's largest rail franchise, Govia Thameslink (GTR) is facing the threat of more industrial action, in a fresh dispute over planned cuts to ticket offices.

The RMT union is balloting more than 1,000 members who work at stations.

GTR, which includes Southern and Great Northern, plans to close 34 station ticket offices and staff 49 others only at peak times.

The two sides are in a long-running dispute over the role of conductors.

'Station hosts'

Stations listed for reduced ticket office hours include Chichester, Crawley, Dorking, Huntingdon, Hove, Lewes, Reigate, Stevenage, Welwyn Garden City and Worthing.

Ticket window closures include Alexandra Palace, Caterham, Cricklewood, Lancing, Purley and Sutton.

GTR said new "station hosts" would work on the concourse instead to assist passengers and help sell tickets.

The RMT claimed 130 station jobs were at risk and said the cuts would also have a "devastating" impact on safety and services offered to passengers.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Southern said more people were buying tickets online or with smartcard technology

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "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."

But GTR director Keith Jipps said: "The RMT's threat of further industrial action is entirely unwarranted and clearly another bid by the union to disrupt passengers and GTR across as many parts of our franchise as possible."

"Our new station hosts will be paid more, be able to work in safety and provide passengers with better customer service, but the RMT is not concerned with improving the experience for passengers and are dismissing significant improvements to the terms and conditions for staff," he added.

The union is to ballot staff in the first two weeks of August on "strike action and action short of a strike."

GTR's franchise covers four railways: Southern, Gatwick Express, Thameslink and Great Northern.

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