Unions slam 'secret plans' to close rail ticket offices as protesters march in Kent
Report by ITV Meridian's Tony Green
Members of two train unions took to the streets of Medway in Kent on Tuesday to protest over what they say are 'secret plans' to close every ticket office in the UK.
Supporters of the RMT and TSSA unions marched through Gillingham - one of a number of demonstrations taking place across the UK.
Train operators say the unions are jumping the gun, and that ticket office sales have gone down from 82% to just 13%.
They believe staff could be of more use in other parts of the station.
But Alex Gordon, National President of the RMT Union said: "This is an absolute emergency that people have to wake up to.
"These proposals to shut down ticket offices are very damaging to local communities like this one in Gillingham. Many people travel by train to work, or use the train to see family and friends or for leisure purposes.
"This proposal is going to hit them in the pocket."
But the National Institute of Blind People has also raised concerns that the loss of ticket offices could alienate those with sight problems.
Erik Matthies, the Royal National Institute of Blind People
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “No final decision has been taken on ticket offices.
"Station staff are vital for passengers’ safety and no currently staffed station will be unstaffed as a result of any reform.
“The reality is ticket offices have seen a significant decline in use over the last decade, and staff could be better directed to where customers need them most and helping passengers feel more safe.
“Passengers will always benefit from face-to-face assistance at train stations, and by making station staff more adaptable we will have a better railway for passengers and taxpayers.”
A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson said: “The RMT leadership is misleading its members and the travelling public.
"While we are looking at how we can move some staff from behind the glass and in to other areas of the station, recognising that ticket offices sales have reduced from 82% to just 13%, no final decisions have been made.
"As part of our discussions with the unions, we want staff to be more visible and available to meet customers where they are - including those with accessibility needs - so we can improve services for all.”