A coalition of organisations joined together on Monday to oppose train operator LNER’s proposed cuts to ticket office opening hours at Berwick-upon-Tweed; Darlington; Doncaster; Durham; Edinburgh; Grant-ham; London King’s Cross; Newark North Gate; Newcastle; Peterborough; Retford; Wakefield Westgate and York train stations.
The proposals would see the ticket offices at these major stations open later and close earlier, and in many cases would lead to a significant reduction in opening hours.
The organisations submitted a joint letter in response to the public consultation being held by Transport Focus and London TravelWatch, which closed on Monday 20th September.
The letter was signed by the following trade unions, campaign groups and charities: RMT; TSSA; TUC; STUC; We Own It; Friends of the Earth Scotland; National Pensioners Convention; Disabled People Against Cuts; and End Violence Against Women Coalition.
The letter highlighted that ‘staffed ticket offices make the rail network more safe, secure and accessible for passengers’ and that ‘certain groups, such as elderly passengers, disabled passengers, and women and girls may be particularly disadvantaged by the proposals.’
It went on to say that the proposals will make it far easier for the company to reduce station staffing in the future; will restrict the amount and quality of advice passengers can access at the ticket office and will deter passengers from using the sustainable and low carbon rail network.
For these reasons, the signatories are calling on Transport Focus and London TravelWatch to oppose all of the proposed cuts to ticket office hours at LNER stations.
- The RMT railway workers union has demanded that the ‘discredited’ South Western Railway (SWR) cuts ‘consultation’ must be scrapped after thousands of passengers objected to the proposed new railway timetable.
The RMT on Monday demanded answers from the government, Network Rail and South Western Railway (SWR) after the research commissioned by SWR that shaped proposals to cut hundreds of services from South Western Railway’s timetable from December 2022 was cast into serious doubt.
The consultation, that formally closed last Sunday, used market research of passengers conducted at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic to make projections for future passenger demand across the SWR network.
RMT has unearthed the fact that SWR commissioned three separate pieces of market research of passengers conducted in May 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic during the first lockdown, October 2020, as the second wave of Covid-19 hit, and in January 2021, immediately after the second national lockdown.
This was a seven-month time period when the government was specifically instructing passengers to avoid using rail where possible.
Separately, the RMT has also found that a detailed study by Network Rail on the future of South West Mainline services, published in July 2021, has been completely omitted from SWR’s consultation.
Network Rail’s study published detailed post-Covid-19 demand projections which in every scenario specified a need for increased capacity on the South West Mainline network, directly contradicting the lower demand projections from South Western Railway’s own market research.
The RMT claim this emerging evidence brings the entire South Western Railway consultation process into disrepute.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘Our evidence proves clear as day that SWR’s cuts consultation is a sham and should be completely discredited.
‘The consultation may have closed but our campaign continues.
‘To propose severe cuts to services based on flimsy research conducted at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and over two and a half years before the new timetable is implemented is staggering, but to make it worse SWR decide to completely ignore the most detailed study into passenger demand across the South West Mainline services conducted in recent years.
‘No one can have any confidence in this process which is clearly being driven by the government as a cost cutting measure and using Covid-19 as a cover to launch an unprecedented attack on rail services and rail workers’ jobs and pay.
‘Almost 3,000 passengers have supported our campaign and directly rejected these cuts proposals and now we know the research the service cuts are based on is discredited our message to SWR and the government is clear: These cuts to rail services should be stopped immediately and in the year the UK hosts vital climate talks at COP26 the government should be wholly focused on cutting emissions, not rail services.’
- The RMT said on Sunday that action by Senior Conductors and Train Managers on East Midlands Railways in two separate disputes remains solidly supported again in on-going fights for workplace justice and safety.
General Secretary Mick Lynch said: I want to pay tribute to our members who are standing firm again today on East Midlands Railways in the two on-going disputes as the company gambles on passenger safety instead of getting round the table for serious talks.
‘We have mounting evidence of safety breaches on strike-breaker operated trains from previous weekends of action that we have raised with the authorities and we are demanding that they step in before we have a major incident on our hands.
‘It’s time for the company to stop taking these unnecessary risks and start talking with us about a settlement to both of the current disputes.’
- Chesterfield bus passengers face serious disruption this autumn and winter if Stagecoach bus drivers and cleaners vote for strike action over a pay dispute, the union Unite said on Monday.
It said Stagecoach, which operates as the Yorkshire Traction Company in Chesterfield, is citing the pandemic for refusing to offer the workers, who are based at the Stonegravels depot, a reasonable pay rise.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: ‘Bosses at Stagecoach’s Yorkshire Traction Company should know that Unite is ready for a relentless campaign if our Chesterfield members vote for strike action.
‘Unite members all over the UK are voting for industrial action right now over Stagecoach’s “penny pinching” on pay.
‘Stagecoach’s board should be in no doubt that Unite is now wholly dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of our members.’
The union said Chesterfield staff are ‘incensed’ that the company is using Covid as an excuse when they worked right through the pandemic to provide safe transport for key workers despite the risks to themselves and their families.
Stagecoach failed to give the workers a pay rise in 2020, even though the company remains extremely profitable. Notwithstanding the Covid-19 pandemic, Stagecoach’s latest accounts reveal that the group made a profit of £58.4 million and it has £875 million of available liquidity.
The ballot for strike action opened on Monday and closes on October 1st. If members vote for industrial action then strikes could begin later this autumn.
Unite regional coordinating officer Scott Lennon said: ‘Our members have not had a pay rise for two years. Now Stagecoach are again using the pandemic as a cover to block a decent wage rise.
‘Our members are incensed at Stagecoach’s penny pinching. If passengers face serious disruption this autumn and winter, it will be entirely Stagecoach’s fault.’
- National Express has confirmed it is in talks to buy rival transport firm Stagecoach. Under the terms of the potential deal, National Express would own about 75% of the combined group and Stagecoach 25%.
National Express, which runs bus and coach services across the UK, Spain, and the United States, saw revenues fall to £990m in the six months ending 30 June 2021, down from £1.03bn the previous year.
Stagecoach, Britain’s biggest bus operator, also saw sales fall in the year to 1st May, dropping to £928m from £1.4bn in 2020 due to the ‘adverse effect of the Covid-19 situation’.