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Red-faced rail bosses spark heatwave row

22 July 2013

Here is a station announcement: your ticket office is closed due to the heatwave.

Red faced rail bosses at one of the UK's busiest stations had to close its ticket office because it failed to install air conditioning despite spending £550 million on re-building Birmingham’s New Station.

The new office had to be closed for two hours last week when the temperature hit 90 Fahrenheit (32 Celsius) making it impossible for staff to carry on working.

The shutdown-while temporary air conditioning units were brought in to bring the temperatures inside the basement offices down to 73 Fahrenheit (23 Celsius) - sparked a row between the TSSA rail union and two rail companies, Virgin and Network Rail.

"You couldn't make this up," said union general secretary Manuel Cortes today

"We have Network Rail spending hundreds of millions on re-building a station which is used by more than 30 million passengers a year.

"And they forget to install air conditioning for ticket office staff working in offices on the lower ground floor under a giant shopping centre.

"Our members are then expected to work in temperatures of over 90 degrees while bosses on the floor above them sit around in the cool of their air conditioned offices.

"Don't these people know it gets hot in the summer and cold in the winter?"

The union has written formal letters of complaint and talks will now take place in Birmingham today (Monday) to try and find a solution to the first hot weather dispute of the summer.

He also criticised Virgin Rail which operates the ticket office at the station which is the busiest in Britain outside of London.

"The heat wave has lasted a fortnight and Virgin should not have waited until temperatures hit 90 degrees before asking NR for temporary air conditioning for our staff.

"No doubt Sir Richard Branson and Sir David Higgins (Network Rail chief executive) will blame the wrong sort of heat but that simply is not good enough.

"They work in comfortable air conditioned offices and so should their staff. Our members should not have to put up with sweatshop conditions in brand new offices which only opened to passengers three months ago.

"This tells you everything you need to know about the privately run railway-first class treatment for managers and second class treatment for the staff."

The shutdown happened last Thursday-the same day that NR's five top bosses were awarded a three year pay and bonus package worth over £11 million.

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