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Southern Rail workers to ballot for strike action in row over workforce reorganisation

Services from Tonbridge and Sevenoaks could face further disruption if proposed strike action goes ahead.

Rail union RMT announced today it will begin balloting staff across Govia Thameslink Railways (GTR) over plans to reorganise staffing at 83 of its stations.

The changes could see the creation of a new position of 'station host' by the transport giant, which runs Kent services under the Southern Rail brand.

Desperate commuters have tried to charter their own trains. Stock picture
Desperate commuters have tried to charter their own trains. Stock picture

The union believes the changes could precipitate the closure or partial closure of ticket offices and the loss of up to 130 jobs.

Thameslink however, says there will be no compulsory redundancies and the scheme will bring more staff to where they are needed on the station concourse.

Neither Sevenoaks or Tonbridge stations would be directly affected as both are managed by Southeastern. Any strike action could result in further disruption on non-mainline services from Sevenoaks up to Blackfriars and trains going from Tonbridge and Edenbridge up to Redhill and London.

The move poses a further headache for commuters amidst a dispute over driver operated trains. Until further notice most services are operating under a reduced timetable due to an unprecedented staff shortage.

Off-peak services between Redhill and Tonbridge are not running and there are no through trains to London Victoria.

Southern Rail tickets remain valid on Southeastern trains.

Tonbridge Railway Station. Stock picture.
Tonbridge Railway Station. Stock picture.

Mick Cash, RMT general secretary, said:“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."

Keith Jipps, passenger service director at GTR, said further industrial action would be "entirely unwarranted" and that passengers had been consulted and their concerns addressed.

He said: “Our new Station Hosts will be paid more, be able to work in safety and provide passengers with better customer service, but the RMT is not concerned with improving the experience for passengers and are dismissing significant improvements to the terms and conditions for staff.”

Ballot papers will go out to RMT members on Tuesday, August 2 with voting ending a fortnight later.

Well over 1000 staff will be consulted.

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