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Twitter has been inundated with concerns from the British public, disability groups and railway unions around proposals to shut almost 1,000 ticket offices.
Members of the National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers (RMT) have been protesting outside stations across the country for weeks, pointing to enforced redundancies and reduced accessibility support.
The dispute reached a boiling point on Tuesday (25 July) when the RMT alleged that railway staff were being threatened with disciplinary action by state-owned train operator LNER for wearing stickers supporting the campaign.
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“Threatening staff who are fighting for their very futures and for the services they provide in this way is a quite disgraceful tactic to use,” said Mick Lynch, RMT General Secretary. “I can advise you that any moves to discipline any RMT member for having a simple statement on a sticker will be met with a full industrial response.”
Lynch also pointed to the “100,000 consultation responses” – which has now reached 170,000, according to watchdogs Transport Focus and London TravelWatch.
The Rail Delivery Group’s (RDG) proposals – built on claims that only 12% of tickets were bought from offices last year – were initially launched with a three-week consultation period to collect passengers’ views.
This was due to end on Wednesday (26 July), but has been extended until 1 September following industrial pressure and court challenges by five Labour mayors, led by Greater Manchester’s Andy Burnham.
“These closures will affect over 2,000 jobs,” said Burnham. “It’s just not the case that this is about redeploying staff. This will be a serious reduction in the level of support available to people when they are travelling.”
Disability equality charity Scope has heavily criticised the impact of the proposals on the 16 million disabled people in the UK. Scope has released a series of videos on Twitter demonstrating the importance of human-operated ticket offices for the visually impaired.
In conjunction with charities including Scope, the National Autistic Society, and Disability Rights UK, disabled-led campaign group Transport for All has issued a letter objecting to the RDG’s proposals in the “strongest possible terms” because the plan would “severely curtail disabled passengers’ ability to travel”.