RMT has been waging a high-profile campaign against TFL plans to remove the ticket office from Whitechapel station during the process of rebuilding the station for it to be served by Crossrail. The plans totally ignore the fact that the station serves an area which includes a busy market and a major hospital. The area is also known for its diverse local population, many of whom need to access staff support at an open ticket office rather than rely on ticket-issuing machines – machines that are vulnerable to vandalism.
This week RMT produced independent polling showing that over 70% of London Transport users oppose Boris Johnson’s ticket office closure programme with over 50% already reporting that they have been unable to buy tickets from station machines. The closure of ticket offices like Whitechapel would leave those passengers simply unable to travel.
RMT has warned that the closure plan for Whitechapel ticket office breaks the important principle that there is staffed ticket office on every London Underground station and so could ‘open the floodgates’ to further closures. Having defeated LU’s previous attempts to close ticket offices en mass, the union has made it crystal that it will not stand by and allow the company to close them one at a time.
The union has also made it clear that it will take whatever action is necessary, up to and including industrial action, to oppose the Whitechapel closure and any other similar moves elsewhere on the network. At the GLA transport committee meeting this week, tube boss Mike Brown gave the clearest possible warning that plans to axe ticket offices, and thousands of station staff across the network, are at an advanced stage and could be unleashed within a matter of weeks with the prospect of the cuts being unveiled before Christmas and in place by next March.
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:
“The threat to the ticket office at Whitechapel is a line in the sand as far as RMT is concerned and we will fight this plan tooth and nail. This is an underhand move by the Mayor and his officials which has huge ramifications for the rest of the tube network if it isn’t stopped. We will be out there building the public support for the campaign on Saturday morning.
“RMT is in no doubt that if the Whitechapel ticket office is axed it will open the floodgates to a surge of closures in the drive to de-staffing which will turn the Undergound into a criminals paradise and leave passengers who need support and advice stranded. We also have no doubt that this closure is part of the secret package of transport cuts in London driven by the axing of hundreds of millions of pounds from TFL’s budget in the Government’s spending review. Those detailed cuts, threatening hundreds of ticket offices and thousands of jobs, are now expected to be unveiled in the run up to Christmas.
“RMT will continue to take this political fight for the future of ticket offices straight to Boris Johnson, reminding him that he publicly pledged not to close tube ticket offices as part of his election campaign. RMT has no intention of letting the Mayor off the hook and will wage a co-ordinated industrial and political campaign to halt this full-frontal attack on vital services that our research shows are highly valued by tube users.”