Belfast Telegraph

Station staff on beleaguered Southern trains are latest to vote for strikes

Embattled train operator Southern faces further strikes after station staff across the Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) network voted in favour of industrial action.

The dispute is over " a threat to jobs, pay and safety" from the impact of ticket office closures and reorganisation of the workforce, according to rail union the RMT.

Some 70% of its members voted in favour of strike action, with nearly 80% supporting industrial action short of a strike.

The result of the ballot will be considered by the union executive.

RMT assistant general secretary Steve Hedley said: " The Govia Thamelink franchise is in meltdown and not fit for purpose. Not content with axing catering services, closing ticket offices and attacking the role of their guards they now want to threaten 130 station jobs and compromise the safety of both their passengers and staff alike.

"These plans fly in the face of the response from the thousands of passengers who objected to the closure of ticket offices and the de-staffing of stations as Govia drives on with plans for a faceless railway where the public are left to fend for themselves on rammed-out, dangerous and unreliable services.

"In light of this strong mandate from our members our National Executive Committee will be considering the course of industrial action."

GTR is the parent company of Southern, which has suffered months of delays and cancellations due to a dispute over changes to the role of conductors, and staff shortages - blamed by the company on high levels of employee sickness.

The Government was urged to protect Southern passengers after next year's rise in Britain's regulated train fares was confirmed as 1.9%.

A GTR spokesman said: " We note that only one in four (26.9%) voted for strike action, with more than half of RMT station staff members ignoring the ballot.

"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."