Posted 12th July 2023 | No Comments

RMT stages nationwide protests over English ticket office closures

The RMT union is staging protests outside many stations to oppose the proposed closure of hundreds of ticket offices.

A consultation is under way over the proposals, which will affect most staffed stations in England and also in Scotland at Glasgow Central, because it is run by the English contractor Avanti West Coast.

Other stations in Scotland and Wales are not included in the plans, and five stations in England which are run by Transport for Wales are also unaffected. Transport for Wales said: ‘We do not have any plans to reduce the number of staff at our stations and we will continue to work in a social partnership with our Trade Unions as part of regular dialogue on how we deliver the best possible service to meet the needs of our customers.’

The wave of protest in England is growing, and the RMT started to demonstrate outside National Rail stations last night, at Manchester Piccadilly, Salford Central and Penzance. There will be one demonstration outside Plymouth station later today, but the majority of RMT protests are set to be staged tomorrow at up to 24 stations between Glasgow Central and Brighton, including a national demonstration at London King’s Cross. Protestors are also planning to gather outside the London headquarters of FirstGroup in Eastbourne Terrace, outside Paddington station.

More protests are set to follow on Friday and Saturday, and into next week.

General secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘Our union is taking our campaign to save ticket offices out into every town, city and village in this country.

‘The recent announcements of ticket office closures is a fig-leaf for the wholescale destaffing of stations, including safety critical train dispatch, safety critical train despatch staff, passenger assistance and other non-ticket office customer service workers.

‘Ticket office closures under Schedule 17 means there will be no regulations on staffing levels at stations whatsoever.

‘Train operators will then be free to staff or destaff any station to whatever level they choose.

‘Our union and the travelling public do not want a dehumanised railway that will be a rife with crime and anti-social behaviour, inaccessible to the most vulnerable.

‘We will fight these plans all the way and need the public's support in joining our campaign and taking part in the consultation.’

The demonstrations come as the RMT prepares to stage three national strikes at most English operators on 20, 22 and 29 July. The union has also just announced that its revenue protection members on London Overground have voted to strike in a dispute with Overground operator Arriva Rail London over a ‘collective grievance into bullying’.

The Rail Delivery Group has justified the closures by pointing out that only about 12 per cent of tickets are still bought from station offices, saying that the displaced staff will be moved to help passengers on concourses instead.

Which ticket offices might stay open?

Avanti West Coast said its offices at some larger stations would be kept ‘short-term’ for passengers with complicated ticket queries which cannot be resolved on line or at a ticket machine. It said these stations are those managed by Network Rail at London Euston, Manchester Piccadilly, Birmingham New Street and Glasgow Central, where AWC runs the ticket offices, and also Preston and Carlisle.

c2c All 25 offices are ‘at risk of closure’ except London Fenchurch Street, Benfleet, Basildon, Grays and Southend Central. These offices continue, but opening hours will change.

Chiltern Railways plans to close all its ticket offices. 

East Midlands Railway will close its offices at Alfreton, Beeston, Boston, Burton-on-Trent, Chesterfield, Corby, East Midlands Parkway, Hinckley, Kettering, Kidsgrove, Long Eaton, Loughborough, Mansfield, Market Harborough, Melton Mowbray, Narborough, Newark Castle, Oakham, Skegness, Sleaford, Spalding, Stamford (Lincs) and Wellingborough. Ticket offices will continue to be provided at Derby, Leicester, Lincoln, London St Pancras International, Nottingham and Sheffield.

Govia Thameslink Railway (Great Northern, Southern and Thameslink) plans to close all ticket offices apart from Gatwick Airport.

Greater Anglia plans to open Customer Information Centres to replace ticket offices at London Liverpool Street, Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich, Norwich, Stansted Airport and Cambridge. All other ticket offices will close, but of the remaining 47 stations run by GA, some would have changes to staffing hours. No presently staffed station will become unstaffed.

Great Western Railway is proposing to close all its ticket offices by the end of next year, including London Paddington. It has already closed summer-only ticket windows at Looe, Newquay and St Ives.

LNER said it proposed to maintain ticket offices at Edinburgh, Newcastle, York, Doncaster, Peterborough and London King’s Cross, ‘which will continue to offer the same range of products and opening times’.

Northern is proposing to close 131 ticket offices and change the opening hours at 18. It also operates a further 318 stations which do not have ticket offices. Stations which would retain ticket offices are Barrow-in-Furness, Blackburn, Blackpool North, Bolton, Bradford Interchange, Glossop, Harrogate, Hartlepool, Leeds, Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Oxford Road, Manchester Victoria, Rochdale, St Helens Central, Salford Crescent, Skipton, Warrington Central and Wigan Wallgate. Exceptionally, Hartlepool is presently closed on Sundays, but would open under the new proposals. The opening hours at the other 17 offices will mostly be reduced.  

Southeastern said it serves 180 stations, and runs 142 ticket offices. It is proposing to open Travel Centres at its 14 busiest stations (Ashford International, Bromley South, Canterbury West, Dartford, Dover Priory, Hastings, London Bridge, London Charing Cross, London St Pancras International, London Victoria, Margate, Rochester, Sevenoaks and Tonbridge). All other offices will close, but staff will return to 14 stations which are currently unstaffed because of vacancies.

South Western Railway is planning to close all its ticket offices.

TransPennine Express plans to close the ticket offices at 14 of the 16 staffed stations it operates. Ticket offices will remain open at Huddersfield and Manchester Airport.

West Midlands Trains (London NorthWestern and West Midlands Railway) said ‘all ticket offices in their current form would close over the next three years’ but that it would introduce a number of ‘hub stations’ offering ‘enhanced retail facilities and customer support’. The ‘hubs’ are proposed at Birmingham Snow Hill, Milton Keynes Central, Northampton, Nuneaton, Sutton Coldfield, University, Walsall, Watford Junction, Wolverhampton and Worcester Foregate Street.

Note: CrossCountry and the open access operators Grand Central, Hull Trains and not manage any stations.