Rail ticket staff in 24-hour walkout

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The Independent Online

Thousands of passengers face ticket disruption on one of the country's busiest rail lines today as 200 Virgin booking-office staff stage a 24-hour strike.

Some 204 Virgin booking office staff will take part in the 24-hour strike affecting a number of stations on the West Coast Main Line linking England with Scotland.



The line is expected to be particularly busy today as people return to work following the long Christmas holiday.



The strike has been called by the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) union in protest at planned cutbacks to booking office window openings.



A dozen mainline stations along the route, used by 25 million passengers per year between Euston and Glasgow, will be hit by the walkout.



Euston, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Crewe, Preston and Glasgow are among the stations expected to be the hardest-hit in the strike.



TSSA leader Gerry Doherty accused Virgin Trains of closing windows to force passengers to use station ticket machines.



He said: "This is all about defending a vital service to rail passengers who are already being ripped off with the most expensive fares in Europe.



"After raising anytime fares by 6% at the weekend, Sir Richard (Branson) is now charging £262 return for a second-class fare between Euston and Manchester.



"Now he wants to stop customers buying cheaper off-peak tickets by cutting back on off-peak travel times and closing more booking office windows.



"We are already paying him £1.4 billion of taxpayers' money over five years to run this second-class service.



"It is the economics of the madhouse and it should be stopped and replaced with a public service railway like they have in the rest of Europe."



A spokesman for Virgin Trains said: "There will be no passengers who miss their trains as a result of the strike.



"We will have staff on hand advising people how to use ticketing machines and if queues start to build we will give customers permission to get on trains and buy tickets on board."



Other stations that will be hit by the walkouts are Warrington, Stockport, Stafford, Birmingham New Street, Wigan and Lancaster.



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