King’s Lynn rail staff set to strike after RMT ballot result

editorial image
0
Have your say

Rail staff in Lynn could be taking strike action in protest over proposed changes to ticketing services at the town’s station.

The interchange is one of dozens that are set to be affected following the vote by members of the RMT union, which was announced on Tuesday.

But train operators have urged them to end the dispute.

RMT officials said 70 per cent of its members voted in the ballot to take industrial action.

The union is unhappy at plans to reduce ticket office opening times at more than 80 stations, including Lynn, and introduce new “station host” roles, which would see staff serving customers on concourses and platforms.

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), the parent company of West Norfolk’s main train operator Great Northern, insists the move is necessary to make station staff and facilities available to the public for longer.

But the union says the plans will lead to job losses, pay cuts for staff who remain and a reduction in services to the public.

RMT deputy general secretary Steve Hedley said: “In light of this strong mandate from our members, our National Executive Committee will be considering the course of industrial action.”

But the company claimed the call for strike action was only supported by around one-in-four RMT members, with more than half ignoring the ballot altogether.

A GTR spokesman said: “While disappointed we urge the union to stop this dispute and save our passengers and staff further pain by becoming part of the solution rather than the problem.”

The ballot result was announced only hours after commuters in West Norfolk learned their fares were likely to go up by 1.9 per cent in the new year.

Increases in the cost of regulated fares, such as season tickets, are set at one per cent above the July retail price index figure, which was 0.9 per cent.

But a TUC report, published to coincide with the inflation figure, claimed fares have risen twice as fast as wages since 2010.

And Action for Rail campaigners staged a demonstration outside Lynn’s station on Tuesday morning, calling for passengers to back their call for the network to be re-nationalised.

One of them, Peter Smith, said: “The only answer here is nationalisation and it’s overwhelmingly popular.”

Another, Jo Rust, claimed the profits made from high ticket prices were not being invested in better services.

But the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, claims that 97 pence in every pound is spent on running and improving services.

Chief executive Paul Plummer said: “We need to sustain investment to build a modern railway, and money from fares helps us to do this.

“In many places our railway is full, with passenger numbers having doubled in two decades, and we know passengers and the country need better services.”