The forecourt of Kings Cross Station in London full of people supporting the RMT’s campaign to stop ticket office closure. The forecourt of Kings Cross Station in London full of people supporting the RMT’s campaign to stop ticket office closure. Source: Peter Bird / shared with permission

Across the country, protests against ticket-office closures brought together a diversity of people determined to defend these public services reports Peter Bird

The forecourt of Kings Cross Station in London on Thursday evening was full of people supporting the RMT’s campaign to stop the closures of station ticket offices. It was one of dozens of similar protests across the country. It precedes forthcoming strike action which will take place on 20, 22, and 29 July over pay, working conditions, and ticket-office closures.

General Secretary, Mick Lynch has said:

‘The arrangements for ticket office opening hours, set out in Schedule 17 of the Ticketing and Settlement Agreement, are the only statutory regulation of station staffing. It is crystal clear that the government and train companies want to tear up this agreement and pave the way for a massive de-staffing of the rail network. The decision to close up to 1,000 ticket offices and to issue hundreds of redundancy notices to staff is a savage attack on railway workers, their families and the travelling public.’

Jeremy Corbyn took the microphone, on Thursday, and drew attention to the nearby banner of the Finsbury Park branch of the RMT, and he praised the staff at Finsbury Park station, which is in his constituency, for serving those travellers with foreign languages, or those with sight loss or hearing difficulties, and well as people who weren’t familiar with the ticketing machines, didn’t have credit cards, or who had complicated needs. He also said:

“If you close these ticket offices, 2,300 people lose their jobs, a thousand stations lose their ticket offices and its one step more to the dehumanisation of our travelling system and our public services.”

Paula Peters from Disabled People Against Cuts expressed solidarity with the RMT. She pointed out that the current public consultation is, in itself, inaccessible for many older and disabled people. Over five million older people have no access to a computer and cannot use one – which is largely necessary to participate in the consultation – and this also applies to many people with disabilities. She declared the ‘consultation to be illegal since it does not comply with equalities legislation.

Defend public services

Lindsey German expressed solidarity on behalf of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity saying:

‘Year after year staff have been cut at stations … hours have been cut … this is an attack on all our communities; an attack on working-class people across the country because it says to people: we don’t care about people with children who have to get them on trains, we don’t care about disabled people; we don’t care about women travelling on their own, who might be frightened of all the attacks that go on; we don’t care about elderly people who may not be able to access tickets.

‘The ticket machines don’t work, and there are terrifying messages about what’s going to happen to you if you don’t buy a ticket and you get on the train and get fined. We have to say this is not good enough … Let’s be clear, one reason they are doing this is revenge against unions for going out on strike … nothing works in this country, there’s sewage in the rivers, there’s a housing crisis, schools are in crises, you go to hospitals and find there are buckets because there are leaks in the roof.

‘We are fed up with all of this, we are fed up with shareholders taking all the money, we’re fed up with high prices, and with the workers paying the price, let’s put all the public services back into public ownership.’

She concluded by encouraging everyone to join the demonstrations on 1 October outside the Tory Party conference in Manchester.

Mick Lynch concluded by acknowledging the variety of those present at the demonstration and by speaking of the desire to bring our class and our communities together to change our society for the better so that it works for us. Although public actions such as Thursday’s demonstrations and those which will take place in Manchester on 1 October are vitally important, it is also important to respond to the public consultation, inadequate as it might be, which closes on 26 July: Train station ticket office consultation – Transport Focus.

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