Posted 16th August 2016 | 8 Comments

New strike threat on 'meltdown' Govia Thameslink

MORE than two-thirds of RMT members balloted at Govia Thameslink Railway have voted in favour of strikes or other industrial action over proposed changes to ticket office hours, the RMT said.

The union reported that 70 per cent had been in favour of a strike, and almost 80 per cent supported other industrial action short of a strike.

The plans as proposed by GTR affect the offices at 83 stations on three GTR networks -- Thameslink, Great Northern and Southern.

GTR wants to close some offices entirely, bringing staff on to station concourses from where they could still sell tickets, while although other offices would remain their opening hours would be cut.

The ballot is not part of the the driver-only operation dispute on Southern, which has led to several strikes and where talks have broken down again. The RMT has accused GTR of ignoring opposition to its plans from passengers and staff, and is predicting that at least 130 jobs will be lose.

RMT assistant general secretary Steve Hedley said: “The Govia Thameslink franchise is in meltdown and not fit for purpose. Not content with axeing 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.”

GTR has yet to comment.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Rosemary, Brighton & Hove

    I rather wish Douglas, Edinburgh and Jackson Hall understood the position for the less technologically, mentally and/or physically disabled. There are far more disabled than ever and I am able to use a computer but not the ticket machines. Nor do I like standing in heavy rain, with my ecologically friendly shopping bags soaking up the wet dirt while I try to buy a ticket. The metal barriers only deter the honest and disabled or elderly as fare dodgers thrust them aside as I had happen to me.
    Nor am I a Luddite. In fact I was recently likened to a suffragette (no rude comments please!) but machines do not replace people. Machines can be temperamental as well as cause job loss for the less skilled.and then you will complain that they could be trained for road sweeps! Without wishing to insult such high intelligence how careless can the young, the well, the fit or the average commuter be?
    I know people who have been badly scared, suffering discomfort, distress and alarm where staff booked to assist did not turn up: and of disabled and partially sighted who cannot use the ticket machines not find the advice machines when they are on a lonely station and in trouble, often unable to use a mobile to if panic doesn't make them forget!.
    In family or health emergencies many have to travel long or difficult distances, to the nearest hospital maybe, which can deal with their situation. For the disabled it is far worse. When recently operated on someone had to get a friend (which not all people have near) to take them very early in the morning, 30-40 miles to their nearest hospital for the operation to be performed. Not all are young enough or well off enough to have private medical insurance.
    Another friend is partially sighted with MS and other issues, but is as independent as her body allows. She finds ticket machines difficult and balance. So please do not think that technology has all the answers. Believe me I am truly thankful for much of the technology, and manage to get about but there are things I cannot anticipate, like when arthritis disables badly enough to use a scooter to get to an appointment which might only be 3-4 miles away; where if it is raining I cannot take it out, or may not have sufficient charge to return.Recharging can take time * hours minimum on the smaller machines such as mine. Nor do I sign for disability as it is normal old age but sometimes I need help too.
    As for Jackson Hall, does he not know that the cost for outside staff is astronomical and cannot be negotiated in the same way as an employee, because the agency also wants its cut of the cake! Ask anyone who has a carer.
    Maybe it is about time that such ignorance should be put alongside the disabled young or old. Electric scooters have a charge when new of 10 - 20 miles with most except the top of the market doing between 5 & 15 miles - with the smaller ones averaging 3-4 miles an hour, often in cold, windy winter weather. Nor can I take my scooter on the bus, but fit mothers can take their buggies - open - onto the bus. Just like an upmarket man-size wheelchair, which could not get on a bus when the trains weren't reliable.
    Research your facts. I am aware that not all workman give value for money, but guards particularly do. Would you like to deal with suicides (plural) or cars beating the gates so that the train hits them? Would you know how to deal with all the numerous passengers while alerting an ambulance and the trains behind during an incident? Although I am not a guard, one evening at a station a drunk started walking along the railway track. No-one who saw it - and there were some and mostly young - who did not care one whit. I yelled at the man repeatedly to go back. Thankfully he did, and before a train came or the gates closed. That would have caused inconvenience to the road users for sure.
    Finally, are people less important than money or getting to your destination, or selfish ambition or even laziness? I think people are far more than doubly important than all your technology and machinery and so and will continue to protest.

  • Graham Lees, LONDON

    Rob, Epsom. Are you seriously.suggesting ticket offices have to be kept open just to serve Priv tickets?

  • J Hutton, Oxford

    Working ticket machines are fine but at Oxford Parkway, a completely new station, the ticket machines regularly sulk if you make even the smallest error or want anything out of the ordinary - like two senior railcard tickets. Whoever designed the software for these machines should try again. Fortunately Chiltern Railways always seem to have very helpful staff to hand ready to issue tickets when I'm there.

  • Rob, Epsom

    We do need ticket offices in 2016. Staff cannot buy tickets using their privilege cards online or by ticket machine, they have to use the ticket office.Yesterday across the network I know of two incidents that go against your second point. A friend who is platform staff yesterday helped a pregnant woman who got trapped in a door after she chanced jumping on, then had to stay with her for 45 minutes for an ambulance as she collapsed. And another friend who is a guard had to help after a three year old fell between the platform and the train. The DOO camears could miss that.

  • arthur graham, tyne & wear

    question i would like to ask if doo implemented who looks after disabled people and wheel chair users getting on and of trains
    [At the moment, DOO lines like Thameslink and Great Northern use station staff for this. DOO does not appear to be an option on lines with unstaffed stations, partly because of accessibility but also because revenue needs to be protected.--Editor.]

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    The expansion of Access for All providing lifts and ramps to stations together with more accessible new trains means there is a growing need for more station staff on platforms to assist the growing number of wheelchair users.

    As for ticket offices well with the coming of Crossrail in a couple of years time together with Thameslonk then their is going to be a major increase in destinations served by a single change at Farringdon Station making it more attractive to travel by rail and yet closure of ticket offices will make it harder for those optional travellers to use rail !

  • Douglas, Edinburgh

    Why, why, why.....?

    I understand the reluctance to step out from behind the glass but surely adopting more customer friendly working practices benefits everyone from passengers to staff in terms of job satisfaction and achievement

    But does it go far enough? In an age where mobile technology moves so fast wouldn't expanding mobile ticketing, NFC and SMART make more sense and have people available to help customers become familiar with the easier way to travel. Even TVMs will eventually become obsolete if not already rapidly moving this way

    To continually set themselves up against progress will ultimately condemn the RMT (and others) to extinction otherwise the UK will never get the railway it deserves. I'm not suggesting for a moment that GTR have all the answers or that all their proposals will fix the issues inherent with ever increasing passenger volumes on an ageing infrastructure and industrial age militant opposition to change; but it is a start

    If the RMT want to whip their members into a frenzy with their propaganda then that's difficult to stop

    A Luddite mandate is not in the customer's (or railway's) best interests....but as with this whole campaign the customer seems to be the one's that get ignored

    My view is there needs to be a clear national plan (although I appreciate there are local sensitivities) which is not driven by what unions want but what is in the best interests of the paying public

  • Jackson Hall, Bucks

    Time to abolish all station staff - there is zero need for platform dispatchers or ticket office staff in 2016 - as DOO self dispatch is proven safer at all times - dispatchers are as irrelevent and unsafe as guards. Similarly ticket machines have displaced ticket offices.

    Agency and private security staff can be recruited for basic customer facing work if needed.