Pete Lazenby and Barry White
Huw Merriman MP, Minister of State at the Department of Transport took refuge in Appleby-in-Westmorland railway station ticket office as protesters opposing plans put forward by the rail companies to shut nearly 1,000 of them, demonstrated at the station on 17 August.
Mr Merriman, whose duties include responsibility for “rail transformation and reform and HS2,” was travelling on our historic Settle-Carlisle railway when he was greeted by welcoming protesters at the Cumbria station. He is also is the Conservative MP for Bexhill and Battle, in Sussex.
Demonstrators included members of rail union RMT and campaigners opposed to the ticket office closures which include Appleby and Settle.
RMT organiser Craig Johnston, who was among them, told The Morning Star: “He got off the train and we wanted to talk to him but he dodged us by running into the ticket office. “We tried to speak to him through the ticket office window”.
A buffet had been prepared for Mr Merriman in the station’s waiting room, but according to press reports it was hastily transferred by managers to the besieged ticket office. As he enjoyed buns, cake and sandwiches behind a locked door the protesters plastered the ticket office windows with posters calling for the closure plans to be abandoned, and for the rail workers’ dispute to be settled.
The following day the minister visited Huddersfield – this time by car where protestors had gathered outside the station to express their opposition to the proposed closures. However, he arrived two hours late and many of the protestors had left. He managed to ignore the few that were still there and went on to dine along with Colne Valley Conservative MP Jason McCartney at the station’s £500,000 first class lounge.
Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of people have signed a petition against the ticket office closures and to date 370,000 responses have been sent to the official consultation which closes on 1 September. Both ACE and the Settle Town Council have responded along with many local residents. If you have not got around to responding, time is running out, so please visit the RMT website.