Commuters face new strike action over ticket office plans

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Commuters could be facing further delays as rail union RMT prepares to hold a new strike ballot in an ongoing dispute with Southern Railway.

The ballot, which is expected to be held sometime in the coming weeks, comes as part of a dispute between the union and Southern owners Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) over plans to cut ticket office hours in stations around Sussex and London.

The plans – to introduce station hosts who will sell tickets on platforms rather than from ticket offices – are opposed by RMT who say they are a threat to jobs and staff safety.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “Both London Travel Watch and Transport Focus have knocked back the ticket office closure plans on GTR after RMT mobilised a huge public campaign of opposition. It now appears that not only are GTR planning to ignore that massive opposition to their cuts but the consultation itself was fundamentally flawed and omitted a central aspect on the location of ticket machines that has severe consequences for our members.

“RMT is totally opposed to the closure or reduction in opening hours of ticket offices, cuts in station staff jobs and the introduction of lone working at stations and the union will continue our fight against these attacks on our member’s jobs, safety and living standards.

“Therefore the union will begin preparations for a ballot of all our Southern GTR station staff members for industrial action. The union remains available for talks.”

The planned changes will see ticketing machines moved to station platforms and most ticket offices closed outside of peak hours.

Southern says it wants to introduce the changes as the vast majority of its customers don’t use the ticket offices on a daily basis.

A spokeswoman for Southern said: “Our station changes will bring staff from ticket offices onto concourses and platforms where they will still sell tickets as well as being more available to passengers.

“Far from being a reduction of service, ticket sales will be available for more time than they are today. There will be no compulsory job losses nor cut in pay.

“Neither RMT nor TSSA have formally notified us of their intention to ballot and we continue to discuss our proposals with both.”

Earlier this week hundreds of RMT members held the first of three 24-hour walk-outs over Southern’s plans to replace all its conductors with on-board supervisors – a new role with fewer safety responsibilities.

Two further 24-hour strikes are scheduled to take place from 11am on Tuesday, May 10 to 10.59am on Wednesday, May 11 and from 11am Thursday, May 12 to 10.59am on Friday, May 13.

RMT and Southern began talks this week and both say they hope to avert further strike action.

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