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Better Rail: Action, action and more action

2 July 2012

TSSA’s Better Rail campaign hit the ground running, with actions across the rail network. Campaign co-ordinator Nadine Rae reports.


Better Rail launched with a bang at TSSA conference in May. Since then members have been keeping the pressure on, holding actions every week to get the word out to fellow rail workers and the public. The message is simple – we want to make our railway better and we are prepared to fight for it.
Better Rail is TSSA’s campaign in support of our vision for the future of rail. A better railway is one that is a quality public service and accessible to all, safe, affordable and one that is accountable to the public. As the government continues to drive cuts throughout our railway, TSSA members are rising to the challenge by getting active in their workplaces and communities.
TSSA Conference takes first of many actions to launch Better Rail

Better Rail was launched firstly at conference in May, with a further six weeks of action planned to launch the campaign within our workplaces. Over these weeks members have shared with us their thoughts on the Better Rail campaigns for:

  • A quality public service – including the need to keep staff at stations for face-to- face service
  • Safety – a railway that is safe to work on, safe to travel on
  • Fares – a railway affordable for all
  • Community – working with community allies and supporters to make our railway accountable to the public.

Each week we have focussed on one TOC or community action to launch Better Rail, including workplace visits at c2c, Southeastern and Virgin, in addition to community stalls and taking part in joint-union postcard actions across the country.

At the TSSA Conference in Cardiff executive committee member Steven Leggett spoke to delegates about the need for us to unite and take action. In a call to action, Steve spoke of past campaigns to save jobs that he’d been involved in: members got together and collected thousands of signatures against job cuts. With their strong show of unity and high level of outreach to the public, the majority of jobs were saved. A victory for TSSA members and community.

‘A better rail system is in everyone’s best interests. Rail is better for the environment. Even for those travelling by car, rail relieves traffic congestion. But change is not going to happen by sitting back. We all need to get active and involved in our Better Rail campaign to protect our jobs and to maintain and improve services to customers.’

Southeastern gets active in Better Rail

Steve Leggett led visits to Southeastern workplaces to launch Better Rail. ‘Both Staff and customers deserve a better railway than we have at the moment. Better Rail gives us hope, but we all need to participate, make our campaign live and win.’

Since the launch of Better Rail, Southeastern Metro branch have led their members in workplace visits and postcard actions, both for Better Rail and in support of the TUC’s new joint union rail campaign, Action for Rail.

c2c gets active to fight for safer and Better Rail

Since late last year, our workplace reps have been focussing on building an active visible TSSA union in c2c. The results are showing, and as membership increases workers are showing their support for a TSSA that focusses on building a better railway and a better future. As part of the Better Rail campaign launch our workplace representatives visited a range of sites across the company to talk to workers about Better Rail. Serious issues around safety are top of people’s minds, especially following the stabbing of a Revenue Protection Inspector last year and a pilot of open-plan ticket offices which decrease the physical precautions which currently limit the risks to staff. Open-plan offices will lack protective glass, leaving ticket office staff members more vulnerable to violent crimes such as robbery or assault.

Reps Mary and Louise shared with us their thoughts on what will make a better railway, see panel right and for Louise, page 12.

Government proposals to cut ticket office and station staff jobs threaten to leave more station unstaffed stations and increase instances of lone working.

Of course cutting station staff will also mean a lower level of safety for passengers. Louise Williams, c2c workplace representative explains ‘People feel safer when there are staff present. Often passangers say to me there should be more staff on at ticket offices as well as until later in the evening.’

TSSA’s postcard survey action has given passengers the opportunity to share their thoughts about staff cuts and safety.

‘Please don’t cut the railway staff, they are massively valued and keep us safe.’
Judith, mostly uses Cardiff Central station

‘Cutting station staff would be a big mistake. What has possessed them to want to do that? If anything for the fares we pay, we need more staff helping.’

Constance, mostly uses Chelmsford station

‘The staff at Cooden Beach and Bexhill are always so helpful. When there are no staff you feel quite vulnerable. I was at St Leonards Walker Square late one night changing trains – no staff to be seen and groups of youths hanging around – not nice! If there are no staff, the waiting room is closed.’

Anonymous, mostly uses Cooden Beach (East Sussex)

‘Single women need to feel secure and safe on public transport. Why charge them more just so that they feel scared?’

E Sagar, mostly uses Hackney Central

We want to hear your stories of safety on the job. Send us your stories to or #saferrail on twitter.

We need Safer Rail

Mary Sithole

Mary is a TSSA workplace representative for c2c. She works in a ticket office selling tickets, processing refunds and providing a face to face service to customers who need information on their journeys. Mary has been working in rail since February 2000. Her role as a Company Council and health and safety representative supports the work of our Better Rail campaign to make rail safe to work on and safe for the travelling public.

Issues of safety are a major concern given the cuts government want to see across the railways. A key issue for c2c staff is the move towards open-plan ticket offices, with no security glass. This is a trend seen in European railways, but where this is happening in the UK workers feel they are not being given adequate answers as to how their security will be assured.

‘Sometimes we face aggressive customers, so there is concern about safety once the glass is removed.’ Instances of aggression reported by TSSA members in ticket offices include verbal abuse, spitting and having objects thrown at staff. ‘Staff are supposed to report verbal abuse, but often feel it’s pointless. We believe we can still provide good interactive customer service with the glass, as we have always done.’

If you have stories on safety to share, get in touch or tell us on Twitter via #saferrail.


Rep Mary Sithole believes the cuts proposed by Government will not make a better railway. ‘The government proposals will make things worse across the railways in general. Less staff will mean elderly passengers will not get the support they need to plan their journeys in advance. Where government proposals cause ticket offices to close or have their hours reduced, passengers will be forced to use ticket machines or online options’.

Mary explains that the ticket machines do not provide advanced tickets, only same day tickets. Therefore even for those passengers who are happy using the machines, they have to rely on the face to face support provided by their ticket office staff if they want to buy tickets days in advance and make their travelling easier. Ticket machines also don’t provide the full range of services, for example, the purchase and renewal of rail cards are only available from staffed ticket offices.

Its not only passengers who are not getting the best value for money. Whilst the government see cutting ticket office as a way to make the railways more cost effective, Mary explains how some passengers will be able to travel without paying any fare at all. ‘With reduced ticket office and station staff, there will be fewer people to gather revenue from fares. Where a ticket office is shut, passengers may often need to buy their ticket at the end of the journey. Staff there aren’t able to verify where the passenger got on the train, so there are passengers even now who end up travelling without paying, or paying less than they should. Increasingly, fare paying passengers will be left wondering why they should continue to bother to pay?’

Mary is clear on what she thinks will make a better railway. ‘If things were harmonised in terms of fares and the way things are processed we would have a better railway. Passengers don’t care about which TOC they are travelling on, they only care about there being a train to get them there. When we explain that our tickets or process is different to the other TOCs, this has in the past led to customers having arguments with our staff.’ Better Rail is campaigning for a quality public service with staff at stations and affordable fares.

Share your thoughts on what will make a better railway on or #betterrail.



Get active in the fight for a better railway

In the past six weeks over 50 campaign sessions have been held – but we still need you to help us plan many more! To find out what is happening or for ideas on what you could do to get active in the campaign, contact

Paul Sloane (above) completed over 50 stations survey cards as well as more than a dozen Action for Rail cards in his visit to affected station, Totnes, in south Devon

You can get active in the fight for a better railway by:

  • Collecting postcards surveys from your friends, family, workmates see for more details.
  • Inviting a Better Rail team member to a workplace or TSSA branch meeting, contact
  • Joining others in an action to hand out postcards or leaflets. Contact your local rep or email to find out what’s happening in your area. l Lobbying your MP or local councillor.
  • Meeting with a local community group, passenger group, disabled persons group, etc, to talk about our campaign.
  • Telling us what you think will make a better railway

Community – we’re getting active in our communities!
TOC Council Representative Manjit Gill has been a long-time active member of TSSA and is encouraging others to get active in Better Rail. His outreach to communities has led to over 1000 postcards being completed by passengers answering the question ‘What do you want in a station?’

TUC Action for Rail
To win Better Rail we must work with community groups, passengers and other allies and supporters. As such, TSSA is fully involved in the TUC joint rail campaign ‘Action for Rail’. During the Better Rail launch period we have held more than a dozen actions in support of the campaign. You can read more about the campaign on page 4 or visit

Railfest 2012
Our team in the North of England held a stall at Railfest 2012 for 10 days. Huge support was expressed for Better Rail, with hundreds of people signing our postcards or adding their names to our Better Rail contact list.

Community Organising Team
Our Community Organising Team are working with reps and members to build our links within the wider community. If you are interested in talking to your MP or local councillor, or meeting with community groups on issues surrounding transport, our community Organising Team can help with training, preparations and materials to support your initiatives. For ideas visit www.togetherfor or contact Rob Jenks on

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