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TSSA - Government Must 'Wake Up' Over Rail Workers' Safety 

7 April 2020

TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, has criticised the Government over the safety of transport workers during the Cornavirus crisis saying Ministers must "wake up" and save lives.

The move follows comments by the Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, to the Commons Transport Committee this lunchtime in which he said railway booking offices should remain open and gateline staff be maintained at stations, due to the need for “revenue protection”.

This contrasts with comments from Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, at the previous meeting of the Committee (25th March) when he said “he did not expect ticket barrier or office staff to be working at the moment.”

Heaton-Harris today told the Committee that numbers using passenger rail had fallen by 95 per cent on the equivalent figure from this time in 2019. The Committee met as it was confirmed that ten public transport workers have died in London as a result of the virus, with more fatalities reported outside the capital.

Commenting, Manuel Cortes, said: “It’s crucial that Ministers wake up right now to the fact transport workers are dying as a result of this virus. If Chris Heaton-Harris and Grant Shapps think this is the time to focus on ‘revenue protection’ they are failing our country and the brave lionhearts keeping our railways moving.

“We really can’t have Ministers behaving like World War One Generals using our members as cannon fodder. They should be ashamed of themselves.

“Let’s get real – in the face of an unprecedented public health emergency all that matters is saving and protecting lives. There is a pressing need to get booking office staff and other staff – such as those working at gatelines – out of harm’s way.

“People in our rail industry and across public transport will rightly wonder why it’s alright for Ministers to sit at home working through technological means while our members have to needlessly face down this virus and potentially infect NHS and other key workers.

“As Government likes to tell us, all staff not essential for the safe running of our railways must stay at home”.

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