Around a dozen activists, including members of Extinction Rebellion, protested for two hours outside Newton Abbot Railway station on Thursday August 24, lobbying passengers about the proposed closure of Newton Abbot ticket office and giving out leaflets urging people to respond to the public consultation by September 1.
I spoke with one of the ticket office staff during the protest, who reported that the three staff on duty were very busy from 9am till noon with a long queue of families and children enquiring about aspects of travel and buying tickets and railcards.
The same member of staff described a medical emergency in the ticket office foyer just a couple of days ago when a member of the public suffered a serious fit, requiring the area to be closed while staff provided attention and liaison with emergency services. Several passengers commented that they were appreciative that there were staff around to provide assistance.
Local RMT activist, Lee Rundle, who organised the protest, said:
“It’s a case of looking after our local communities by keeping these ticket offices open. The offices provide a safe space for both staff and passengers because they know someone will be there.
“Staffed ticket offices give extra information and get the best deals which ticket machines obviously cannot.
“In my eyes they are closing offices purely in the name of profits”
A staff member who had just finished a shift as a train dispatcher informed me that, apparently, 9 out of the 22 staff currently employed at Newton Abbot are earmarked for redundancy and that the gate-line (barrier) staff will work reduced hours, which will probably lead to instances of non-paying passengers out of hours. He was also concerned about the current level of assaults on staff members at various stations locally, having himself been assaulted last year.
Local Lib Dem councillor Jackie Hook and Teignbridge Parliamentary candidate Martin Wrigley were also present to support the protest.
19 August 2023
RMT Press Office:
Railway workers will take the fight for the future of ticket offices to the doorstep of 10 Downing Street on 31 August.
The mass rally will see RMT members, trades unionists and supporters from across the political landscape tell the government in no uncertain terms that ticket offices must be saved.
A consultation on the future of ticket offices which has received nearly 400,000 responses will close on September 1st and the union is encouraging everyone to take part.
Current plans will see up to 1000 ticket offices closed and 2,300 station staff jobs are in jeopardy.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said:
“The public response to the government wanting to shut every ticket office in Britain has been very encouraging.
“People from different walks of life recognise the value of ticket offices and the station staff that support passengers on their journeys.
“Rail companies and their masters in government, do not care one jot about disabled people, vulnerable passengers and those travelling alone who welcome a human presence on our railways.
“These plans lock in age and disability discrimination and if they are carried out, it will mean many vulnerable passengers will not feel safe using the network.
“I urge everyone to take part in the consultation but our campaign will continue after the closing date of September 1st.
“We will be lobbying MPs, several of whom from across the political spectrum have been supportive of our campaign. And RMT will increase the pressure on the government to abandon its increasingly unpopular policy.”