Campaigning by trade unions, disabled people’s organisations, passenger groups and others has forced the Tories into a humiliating U-turn over plans to close hundreds of rail ticket offices in England.
On Tuesday Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the government had asked train operators to withdraw their proposals because they failed to meet high passenger standards.
The Tories’ retreat would not have happened without mass campaigning—and their fear of annihilation at the next general election.
Passenger watchdogs Transport Focus and London Travelwatch objected to the proposals, saying they had received 750,000 responses from individuals and organisations in a public consultation.
These included “powerful and passionate concerns” about the potential changes, Transport Focus said.
RMT union general secretary Mick Lynch said that it was a resounding victory for passengers, community groups and rail workers alike.
He added, “We are now calling for an urgent summit with the government, train operating companies, disabled and community organisations and passenger groups to agree a different route for the rail network that guarantees the future of our ticket offices and stations staff jobs to delivers a safe, secure and accessible service that puts passengers before profit.”
The Tories will try to say they were not directly responsible for the plans that would have closed up to 1,000 ticket offices, putting 2,300 station staff jobs at risk, But their fingerprints were all over the scheme. Essentially now the Tories have rejected proposals they made themselves.
The BBC said rail bosses were “furious” because the original plans had been approved by the Department for Transport (DFT). A source from one of the parasitical rail firms whined that they had “been made to sell these plans, defend them and change them to try and get them over the line. All in the face of the inevitable onslaught of criticism.
“All of these plans were approved by officials and ministers at the DFT. To say they fell short of their expectations is totally disingenuous.”
This win over the ticket offices should be a spur to step up the fight to win over rail workers’ pay and conditions. That means more strikes, and much more frequently than have been organised so far.
This victory is not a substitute for success over wages, jobs and safety.