THE union that oversees ticket offices is to ballot its Govia Thameslink Railway members over plans to close outlets and axe staff.

The Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) rail union is to ballot over 250 station staff members on strike action at the troubled Govia (GTR) franchise, it was announced today.

The news comes as Southern, which is part of GTR, today hopes to sit down with the RMT union over plans to change the role of conductors. The RMT is threatening a five-day strike if it cannot avert the changes, which are due to come in from August 21. The strike is due to start on Monday.

The TSSA, meanwhile, is in dispute with GTR over amended plans that could see 34 offices close altogether and 49 only open during peak hours, with 47 jobs being cut.

TSSA leader Manuel Cortes said the two-week ballot would start on Wednesday, August 10, and any action in September would be co-ordinated with "our sister rail unions to maximise the impact".

He added:"The GTR franchise has let down the travelling public and its staff and we would like to see it stripped of its franchise as soon as possible because it is no longer fit for purpose.

"Passengers may have to suffer short-term pain to see a long-term gain in the shape of new owners, hopefully Transport For London, if ministers start seeing sense."

He said plans to move staff out of ticket offices to act as "station hosts" had not been thought through.

As well as handling large amounts of cash, they would also be in charge of operating gate lines. The TSSA says this would create "a recipe for confusion".

Mr Cortes added: "We have tried to negotiate on these ideas but GTR just seem to be making it up as they go along."

A GTR spokesman said: "TSSA now seems to want to join the RMT in heaping more misery on our passengers.

"Balloting for industrial action over proposals which will see affected staff earn more, where jobs have been guaranteed and which will result in station staff being available for longer seems not only pointless but ridiculous.

"We trust station teams will see these proposals are good news for them and for passengers."