Analysis comment

Craven condemns Tory plan to close rail ticket offices

TSSA general secretary candidate condemns government’s anti-safety measure

TSSA general secretary candidate Bonnie Craven has condemned about the government’s plan to close all the rail network’s 1000+ ticket offices in order to allow rail operators to increase profits. Ms Craven said that the ‘unsurprising’ plan will put passengers and staff at risk for the sake of padding corporate profits:

Yesterday we became aware of plans by train operating companies to close ticket offices, with some to happen as soon as this Christmas.

Frankly the proposals, put forward by the Rail Delivery Group (ROG) on behalf of the train operating companies are unsurprising.

Since privatisation, our railways (particularly the Train Operating Companies) have been run in the interests of the profiteers, not the passengers.

The first legal responsibility of any private company is to provide profit for it’s shareholders. The simplest way to maximise this is to spend less on running the business, and usually this means cutting staffing or staff pay to the bone. This same strategy has been followed by the privateers in all of our public services: rail, mail, utilities, education and of course our NHS.

Proposals to close ticket offices are simply about cutting the staffing bills at these private companies, to maximise profit for the shareholders. They run contrary to the provision of an essential public service.
Ticket office staff provide an invaluable service to passengers. They can advise on best routes and ticket deals. They support disabled passengers enabling them to access our railways. They provide a visible presence for passengers, making rail travel safer, especially for women or vulnerable passengers.

Six years ago I entered negotiations with a train operating company who were seeking to move ticket office staff onto the concourse and have them use tablets to sell tickets. I successfully argued against this for the following reasons:

• Staff safety
• Suitability of equipment, DSE regulations and risk of RSls for staff
• Staff preparedness or ability to work outside of the ticket office
• Passenger safety

I insisted that the TOC [train operating companies] undertook individual risk assessments, looked at the equalities impact, and evidenced that a number of their current ticket office staff had been displaced to this role due to a disability, as a reasonable adjustment. Ticket Office staff were, as a result, provided with equipment to use within the ticket office.

Even then it was clear that moving staff out of ticket offices would likely ultimately lead to a reduction of staff at our stations – understaffing is obvious when there are closed windows, less so when passengers need to wander around to find a member of staff. There are also concerns for our members with regards to the threats they face from lone working outside of a place of safety.

Bonnie Craven, a stalwart left activist in the union and pro-NHS movement, was one of the TSSA women who helped expose and organise against the sexual harassment, misogyny and bullying by TSSA’s former management. At the request of colleagues and members, she launched her bid to become the union’s new general secretary this week in a video pledging to build up the union and ensure that all its staff are valued and respected.

The government has begun a three-week consultation on its closure plan. Have your say here.

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    1. Me too Jean. The Train Operating Companies’ (TOCs) single-minded pursuit of profit is the sole cause of rail inadequacy – which is also why they want to close ticket offices, reduce on-train ticket inspectors and operate trains without guards.

      1. When National Express terminated its East Coast rail franchise in 2009, it did so because it had bid for the contract at too high a price to make the obscene profits that other TOCs like Virgin and state-owned operators from Germany, Holland and Spain were managing (or have since 2009). It offered the Dept for Transport (DfT) £150m to terminate its franchise and legal obligations. The DfT refused. It had a contractual right to demand up to £1.4Bn from the absconding franchisee, but took a paltry £120m instead. MPs (even Tory ones) were disgusted and the HoC public accounts committee ‘horrified’.

      Bob Crow, the then-general secretary of the RMT union, said the National Express episode proved ” the financial and operational madness of rail privatisation”. DfT were the main culprits, the franchisees merely for-profit operators whose greed affected their actions.

      “Not only were National Express allowed to waltz away from one of the country’s most prestigious routes without penalty, but we now find that it cost the British taxpayer a fortune in the process,” he said.

      2 When the government took the East Coast rail service back into state ownership (Directly Operated Railways), ticket prices reduced by 7% on average (the maximum allowed), passenger numbers increased by between 14 and 23% on some routes (6.8% on average), government subsidy reduced by nearly £500m, passenger satisfaction figures increased almost immediately and the wretched BBC ran stories like this that were so inaccurate they now serve as an obviously politically-motivated precursor to the JC is anti-Semitic disinformation and the atrocious coverage of the global pandemic ‘cases’ that didn’t produce any ‘excess’ death figures anywhere on the planet (incl. UK) where the WHO collates data.

      The TOC’s single-minded pursuit of profit is the SOLE cause of rail failure and I strongly believe that Bonnie Craven would make a fantastic TSSA GS and campaign for this – whatever Sir Rodney’s corporate backers allow him to do.

  1. Having resigned themselves to losing the next election I fear that the Tories are adopting a scorched earth policy.

    1. Seeing as how a scorched earth policy – of what Macmillan referred to as “selling off the family silver” – has been the adopted policy of every Blue, Red and, since the Orange Book faction took over in the Lib-Dems,Yellow Tory administration since the blessed Frau Roberts in 1979 the implied suggestion that, should the Blue Labour faction of the ruling Oligarchy be permitted to take a turn in administration, such policies will change in any significant way makes Don Quixote appear as an adherent of the ultra realist school of thought.

      You are Walter Mitty and I claim my five quid Tesco voucher.

  2. Off topic:

    Mexico Has Fully Recognized the State of Palestine by Kurt Hackbarth in Jacobin

    In fealty to US foreign policy, Mexico has long refused to recognize Palestinian statehood. Last week, that finally changed, with AMLO’s government officially acknowledging Palestinian statehood and establishing a full embassy in Mexico City.

    On June 2, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates announced that, as of the first of the month, it had reclassified its diplomatic mission in Mexico from special delegation to embassy. The ministry “expresses its firm conviction that this measure will contribute significantly to the . . . strengthening of relations between Mexico and the State of Palestine, on the basis of respect and mutual recognition, in benefit of our two peoples as well as international security and development,” it affirmed in a statement.

    The announcement should have made headlines. Instead, it was received with a soft thud by both the Mexican and international press. As for the Mexican government, its only confirmation came by way of a hands-free upgrading of the delegation’s status to embassy on its official website — a curious, backdoor route for such a fundamental change in foreign policy…

    It may be that AMLO’s government was planning on recognizing Palestine anyway, despite massive State Department pressure. But it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the president, having grown tired of Israeli game playing on issues of such serious criminality, decided to start moving some pieces of his own. In the process, Mexico has moved a step further from Washington and closer to the settled regional consensus in Latin America.

    Whichever roundabout road it took to get to Rome — or rather, Gaza — the decision is the correct one. And with Mexico’s increasing clout, it is a decision that will have international resonance — once the media gets around to covering it.

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