Rail ticket staff staging rush-hour strikes

Ticket office workers on the busy West Coast line are to stage three rush-hour strikes in a row over closures, threatening disruption to passengers, it was announced today.

Over 200 Virgin booking office staff at more than 12 stations will walk out for three hours from 4pm this Friday, from 5am on Monday, 25 January and from 4pm on Friday, 4 February.

Among the stations affected will be London Euston, Coventry, Stafford, Crewe, Preston, Penrith and Glasgow.

The workers, members of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, held a 24-hour strike last Monday in protest at the planned introduction of new ticket machines in booking offices which they claim will lead to more windows being closed and passengers forced to use more expensive station machines.

The union's general secretary, Gerry Doherty, called for talks with Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson to end the dispute, adding: "We do not want to inconvenience passengers on what is already the most expensive rail network in Europe. We are striking to defend a vital service to passengers.

"If more booking office windows close, passengers will be forced to use more expensive ticket machines which do not always accept all railcards. That means buying dearer tickets than they need."

Virgin Trains said the previous walk-out had not affected services, adding that changes to ticket offices were designed to improve services for passengers.

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