Now union challenges lawfulness of ticket office closures consultation

The legality of the consultation about closing the ticket offices at most stations in England has been challenged by the RMT union, which has called for ‘the whole disastrous closure programme to be abandoned’.

The union was reacting to the news that the original 21-day consultation period, which would have ended last night, is being extended to 1 September.

The transport watchdogs Transport Focus and London TravelWatch said they have already received more than 170,000 objections to the closures, and many Railnews readers have also voiced their opposition, often making the point that buying tickets will become more difficult, particularly for people with disabilities or those who do not possess smartphones or have access to the internet.

The Mayors in the city regions and some of their colleagues elsewhere had already been preparing to mount a legal challenge to the plans, which have been published by English train operators with Department for Transport contracts. Some critics have claimed that the closure programme has been devised by the Department, because it believes the closures would reduce railway costs.

The RMT says over 1,000 ticket offices are due to be closed with the loss of over 2,000 station staff. It is known that preliminary redundancy notices have already been served on the unions by train operators.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘Campaigning by our members on stations across the country alongside tenacious disabled peoples’ groups and passenger bodies has forced rail bosses and ministers to admit the original consultation was not fit for purpose and must be extended.

‘Although our pressure has forced their hand, it is still a deeply flawed and a wholly inadequate consultation process which we are considering challenging legally in the courts.

‘Our campaign to save ticket offices, protect our members’ jobs and look out for the best interests of all rail passengers will only intensify in the coming weeks.’

The RMT had already planned to stage another 24-hour walkout affecting most English train operators on Saturday in its dispute over pay and conditions, which now also includes a bid to keep ticket offices open.

Rail Delivery Group chief executive Jacqueline Starr said: ‘Train companies have listened to feedback, and are extending the time available to respond to the consultation on changes to how tickets are sold at stations to 1 September. Operators are keen to give more people a chance to give their views on the proposals, so they can bring the railway up to date with dramatic shifts in customer buying habits, while supporting all its customers as the railway evolves and adapts.

‘While local plans vary, the aim of the proposals is to bring staff out from behind ticket office windows to offer more help for customers buying tickets and navigating stations. At the same time ticket vending machines are being upgraded to offer a wider range of fares, and we have committed that no customer will have to go out of their way to buy a ticket.’

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