The National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers (RMT) will be taking the fight to stop ticket office closures right to PM Rishi Sunak’s front door at Downing Street. So, save the date, as it’s going to be an important protest – not least for chronically ill, disabled, and older people.
Ticket office closures: capitalist chaos
As the Canary has been documenting, the Tories and train operators have been in cahoots to close ticket offices across the country. However, people have hit back furiously – including chronically ill and disabled people. This is because, as we previously wrote:
23% of disabled people are internet non-users. Ticket vending machines are often inaccessible. Plus, wheelchair users can only get their 50% discount on tickets from an office.
Train operators are counter-claiming that they’ll redeploy ticket office staff on stations. However, research by the Association of British Commuters (ABC) has shown this not to be true.
Then, there was the issue of the government and train operators’ consultation. Previously, it was set to last only 21 days, and was due to close on Wednesday 26 July. However, two disabled people started one legal challenge, and five Mayors started another. The end result was the government and train operators caving in and extending the consultation. People now have until 1 September to submit their objections. The list of train operators’ consultations is here.
Meanwhile, the RMT has been taking the fight up and down the country. There was one national day of action on 9 August, and another will follow on Wednesday 16 August:
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RMT Save Railway Ticket Offices National Day of action this Wednesday 16th August
— Conor Price (@CnrPrice) August 14, 2023
However, this isn’t all the trade union is doing.
RMT: taking the fight to Downing Street
RMT has organised a rally for 31 August. It will start at the Department for Transport, and is set to end at Downing Street:
#SaveTicketOffices March to 10 Downing Street
📢 On the eve of the close of the public consultation on ticket office closures, join the march to 10 Downing Street
🗓️ Thursday, August 31st 2023 pic.twitter.com/jxWnNgoKzZ
— RMT (@RMTunion) August 14, 2023
It’s not the first time this year that the RMT has gone to Sunak’s front door to protest. It also organised a demo in January over the Tories’ anti-trade union laws:
Huge turnout at Parliament while the Tory scoundrels inside make it against the law to strike. #DefendTheRightToStrike @eiecampaign @RMTunion Thanks to all our @RMTLondon region that come out on a cold night. pic.twitter.com/ZdlK0JVIG0
— P O'Neill (@Big_Jim__Larkin) January 16, 2023
— Chris 🕷🐦 (@imageplotter) January 16, 2023
The RMT’s protest at Downing Street may well reflect public opinion. A poll by the Mirror found that only 21% of people actually support ticket office closures. As of 3 August, the consultation had recieved 315,000 responses. The union’s general secretary Mick Lynch said:
That so many people have responded to the consultations shows that there is mass public opposition to the Government and Train Companies’ proposals.
These damaging plans are not just about ticket office closures; they are a smokescreen for a widespread dehumanising of our railways.
Interestingly, it’s not just trade unions and campaigners coming out against the plans. The West Midlands Combined Authority voiced its objections:
West Midlands transport chiefs have declined to support proposals to close rail ticket offices across the region despite agreeing, in principle, on the need to modernise the way stations are managed and staffed.
— West Midlands Combined Authority (@WestMids_CA) August 14, 2023
Little wonder, really – as the Canary previously reported, under the plans:
West Midlands Trains would have a total of 137 unstaffed stations (94% of its network), and East Midlands Railway would have 90 (87% of its network).
Ticket office closures are ‘government vandalism’
Our railway stations are at the heart of communities around the country and if these closures go ahead the Tories will pay a heavy political price at the next election with boarded up ticket offices and de-staffed stations being a permanent reminder of the government’s vandalism of our railways.
We are urging the public to continue spreading the word about these cuts and to have their say in the consultations before September 1.
Indeed, the Tories’ “vandalism” of the railways has been ongoing since before their privatisation of them in the early 1990s, leading to a perpetual state of chaos. Now, ticket office closures are the thin end of a very corporate capitalist wedge – and the RMT and its supporters intend to make that crystal clear to Sunak on 31 August.
Featured image via the RMT and Rishi Sunak – YouTubeSupport us and go ad-free
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