I’ve been working on the railways for over forty years. In that time I’ve seen many people come in with big ideas to shake things up, and watched as we’ve just gone round in circles.
When I first joined I saw it as my bread and butter, another day in the office. But a lot of my colleagues are really interested in trains, and they love looking at railway journeys across the UK, Europe and around the world. You start to get a real fondness for it.
It’s not like any other industry I’ve worked in. You just don’t find the same camaraderie anywhere else that you do on the railways. When you’ve got your railway uniform on, you can go over and talk to someone from a different train line and they treat you like your best friend - even if you’ve only met twice before.
It doesn’t matter, because on the railways it’s companionship over train company. They see the uniform and the badge and they treat one another with respect.
We all chip in together. It’s a group of people who are willing to go the extra mile to help someone, and it’s not just customers but staff members who they’ve probably not even met before. It’s quite unusual. You can work in other companies and the office politics starts piling in, but you don’t get that on the railways. It’s a lot of close bonds and helping each other out. It’s a bit like a family.
But our family is facing separation.
If ticket offices close, everything will change. The train operating companies officially said with the reform package there wouldn’t be any compulsory redundancies. Well, they’re not saying that now. They’ve started talking about cutting 2,000 jobs and moving staff to mobile roles.
Job cuts will also sever those close bonds that hold the railways together. I don’t doubt it will break up that friendship and close working relationship. There will be resentment, and the questions will start coming…
‘Why didn’t I get picked for this? Why did you?’
‘Why am I being pushed outside? I’ve been here as many years as you.’’
We’re already seeing the effects ripple through the railways. There’s no mandate from the Department for Transport to pay any wage increase for two years. Everyone is looking for jobs. The youngsters are looking outside the railway industry, because they can’t hang around for two years. The people over 40 are saying ‘do I go now? What do I do?’
So next year, after four decades of service, I could potentially be out of a job. I’m not one for being a stick in the mud and against modernisation, but I don’t think the changes need to be as savage as what rail firms are proposing.
Everyone’s hoping to change the decision. People have been writing into the travel watchdog consultations saying they're disgusted at what's happening and they want to see the ticket office staying open.
There’s been a lot of banging on the door of the Transport Secretary Mark Harper telling him to put the brakes on these plans. And now everyone's wondering: is the Conservative government going to listen?