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28 April 2016, 08:21
Union bosses are to ballot station staff across Southern for industrial action in a separate dispute over the company's plans to close ticket offices.
A leading rail operator hit by a conductors' strike this week is facing the threat of industrial action by another group of workers.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Southern Railway staged a 24-hour walkout, which ended on Wednesday, over the role of conductors and driver-only trains.
Two further strikes are planned next month, threatening more disruption to services run by Southern, which is owned by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR).
Now the union is to ballot station staff across Southern for industrial action in a separate dispute over the company's plans to close ticket offices. Hundreds of RMT members working on stations and in ticket offices will take part.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ``Both London Travel Watch and Transport Focus have knocked back the ticket office closure plans after RMT mobilised a huge public campaign of opposition.
``It now appears that not only are GTR planning to ignore that massive opposition to their cuts, but the consultation itself was fundamentally flawed and omitted a central aspect on the location of ticket machines that has severe consequences for our members.
``RMT is totally opposed to the closure or reduction in opening hours of ticket offices, cuts in station staff jobs and the introduction of lone working at stations, and the union will continue our fight against these attacks on our members' jobs, safety and living standards.''
GTR maintains that staff will be more visible and helpful to passengers if they are based on station concourses rather than in ticket offices.
It is proposing to close around 80 ticket offices.
A statement on Southern's webpage says: ``At some of our stations we know that our ticket offices sell fewer than 12 tickets per hour and the vast majority of customers don't use the ticket offices on a daily basis.
``At these stations we want our staff to become more available for all users of the station and ensure there is a visible presence on our station concourses where they can help customers with all of their queries, provide information, offer assistance and have the ability to sell tickets when needed.
``We already sell approximately 70% of our tickets through ticket machines, online, smartcards, Oyster and contactless payments, and this trend is forecast to continue.
``However, we also know the importance of having staff members visible and available to help when needed.''