Grant Shapps calls on killjoy rail bosses to back down and end the ban on George the dog
Transport secretary Grant Shapps calls on killjoy rail bosses to back down and end the ban on George the dog that popular station master says is forcing him out of his job
- Station master Richard Bunce, 54, and his dog had been adored fixtures at Horsley Railway Station in Surrey
- George, a German wirehaired pointer, would sit quietly in his bed in the ticket office causing no bother
- South Western Railway has banned the pooch after a glowing review from a station visitor which mentioned George
- And now transport secretary Grant Shapps has weighed in encouraging the firm to think again on the ban
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has called on ‘killjoy’ railway bosses to back down and end the ban on George the dog that a popular station master says is forcing him out of his job.
Mr Shapps tweeted in support of Richard Bunce, 54, and his dog George, 4, who were a popular pair at Horsley station in East Horsley, Surrey.
Today Mr Shapps tweeted: ‘Sad to hear that @SW_Help planning to dispense with the services of George the station dog, along with his owner station master Richard Bunce. Sounds like RUFF justice to me! A little less tick-boxing would brighten up everyone’s day.’
His tweet was replied to by @SW_Help, who said: ‘We have been working with Richard this week to find a way for him and George to continue their good work at Horsley, while maintaining the safety of customers and colleagues and hope to resolve soon.’
Other social media users tweeted their reactions to the ban, with one saying ‘Ah. what a shame’ and another writing ‘What misery guts.’
Mr Bunce and George had become local celebrities in the village of East Horsley, which has a population of 2,000 people.
The station master was so good at his job that the transport hub was nominated for Best Small Station of the Year three months ago.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps tweeted in support of Richard Bunce, 54, and his dog George, 4, (pictured) who were a popular pair at Horsley station in East Horsley, Surrey
Mr Bunce and George (pictured) had become local celebrities in the village of East Horsley, which has a population of 2,000 people
Mr Bunce started taking George in around three years ago because he worked alone there during his popular tenure
Richard Bunce the station master from Horsley in Surrey pictured with his dog George
South Western Railway issued the ban on George because a mystery shopper gave the station a glowing review and mentioned in passing that a dog was in the office.
And because Mr Bunce, a former train guard, cannot make or afford alternative arrangements for German wirehaired pointer George, the new conditions mean he can longer do the job.
Even if he did have the money for daycare for the dog, the early 5.30am time he starts his shifts mean none would be open.
Today Transport secretary Grant Shapps tweeted (pictured): ‘Sad to hear that @SW_Help planning to dispense with the services of George the station dog, along with his owner station master Richard Bunce. Sounds like RUFF justice to me! A little less tick-boxing would brighten up everyone’s day’
Now over 3,800 people have signed a petition – backed by East Horsley Parish Council – urging bosses to see sense and let the pet back to the station.
Mr Bunce started taking George in around three years ago because he worked alone there during his popular tenure.
The station master told MailOnline: ‘For some people, dogs are family – that’s what George is to me.
‘I took it upon myself to bring him into work. I was never told I couldn’t, but I didn’t ask either.
‘It never caused any problems. Everyone has been very positive about it. He stays in the ticket office so he’s not a bother.
‘But as of Monday, going forward, dogs aren’t allowed in the ticket office.
‘We had a secret shopper that visited the station. Part of that report is that it was noted that there was a dog in the ticket office. It wasn’t positive or negative, it was just a note. It was just noted that it was there. Apart from that, they were happy with the station.
‘I have to leave the position because there isn’t a cost-effective way of doing it.
‘I don’t want to spend the whole day away from him alone in the house and if I was to drop him off at a doggy daycare, it’d have to be at 5.30am. I don’t think there’s anywhere near here that opens that early.
‘If I was to be working at a station that had ten other people in the office I wouldn’t even try to bring him in as it’s not suitable. I work on my own. I don’t see the problem.’
George (pictured) has become a local celebrity at Horsley railway station and news of his impending departure have saddened locals
Mr Bunce said George (pictured) was like a ‘member of his family’ and took him to work as he was the only one working there
Mr Bunce was so good at his job the transport hub (pictured) was even nominated for Best Small Station of the Year three months ago
Locals are devastated after Mr Bunce has been forced to leave his job because of his dog, pictured Lucy the dog , John, Sue, Sylvia and Kevin
Horsley Railway Station is in Surrey near to Leatherhead, West and East Horsley as well as Ockham and Great Bookham
Over 2,000 residents and dog-lovers have signed a petition for Mr Bunce to be allowed to take George to work.
They say they are essential to the community and have done hours of unpaid work to help people living there.
During lockdown when the local library was closed Mr Bunce even offered a pop-up book borrowing service to help the elderly stay connected and entertained.
Now over 2,000 people have signed a petition urging bosses to see sense and let the pet back to the station in Surrey (pictured)
Mr Bunce added he hoped SWR would reconsider and make an allowance, especially considering he is the sole worker at the station (pictured)
The petition (pictured) to save Richard Bunce and George has been started online and already has fetched at least 2,000 signatures
Station to station: Some railways welcome pets as members of staff
The rules on animals vary from station to station but one has a very relaxed approach to them in the office.
A beloved moggie who has spent almost five years patrolling a West Yorkshire railway station was given a promotion for her dedication to her job back in 2016.
Felix, a black-and-white cat, was named Senior Pest Controller and given a new high-vis jacket and a name badge by TransPennine Express.
She has been working at Huddersfield Railway Station since 2011, catching mice, making friends with commuters on a daily basis and getting paid in cat treats.
Challenges were faced at one point when the barriers designed to catch out fare dodgers prevented her from patrolling the station for mice.
Thankfully the train operators spotted Felix’s problem, and she was able to enjoy the use of a unique cat flap that allowed her to bypass the barriers.
The new system was been a success and the feline was able to go about her business.
Over the years she had gained the support of her colleagues and captured the hearts of commuters in the process.
Felix even had her very own Facebook page with over 4,000 followers
Chris Bamford, a Customer Services Assistant at the station, said: ‘The promotion is just a nice appreciation of Felix’s work. It is a reward for nearly five years of service. Her presence just brings a smile.
‘She can often be found on the concourse just sitting on a podium next to me during the busy periods. The morning commuters just glance at Felix and it brings a smile out of them.
‘Felix is part of the family here, although she does like to think that she runs the place.’
The dedicated moggie’s name was given to her when she was a kitten and staff thought she was a male.
After discovering she was actually female, they decided to keep the name anyway.
The petition reads: ‘Richard has been responsible for many local initiatives and the clean, tidy and friendly upkeep of Horsley station which has been a labour of love for him together with his well behaved and friendly dog George.
‘Rules is rules it seems but George wasn’t doing any harm and he and Richard make a great team and that makes a lovely happy station. If it ain’t broke, don’t fit it.’
One customer at the station told MailOnline: ‘Richard is a lovely man and has completely transformed that station for the better.
‘He is a local hero and everyone loves seeing him and George. The individuality of stations is just fading into history now – it’s so sad.
‘His bosses should be giving Richard a promotion or pay rise for all he’s done for this village – not making it impossible for him to work there.’
Following SWR’s no-dog ruling, Mr Bunce took a few days off sick unrelated to the issue and a concerned regular got in touch to ask where he was.
He said: ‘Someone asked why I wasn’t there as I always am, I explained I will ill but I also said to them I’d have to leave as dogs aren’t allowed in the station now.
‘I’ve pretty much done nothing since then. The ball has rolled down the hill. I’ve seen some comments online, I’ve seen the petition, and virtually everyone I’ve spoken to can’t see the problem.
‘In Horsley, I swear the world and his mate have at least one dog so they’re a big fan of George.
‘He doesn’t do much at work, he’s very chilled. I take him for a walk before work. He has his bed there. He just waits for his audience to turn up.
‘He’s in the ticket office with me so there’s no immediate contact. If they can see in, they see him. Some bring bags of treats to him. He’s a happy-go-lucky well behaved dog.
‘I do think SWR have been fair. If there is a ruling or a reason I can’t bring him into the office, that’s fine. I’m not trying to take a stand – it’s purely a case of if I can’t take him to work, I can’t go to work.
‘I emailed my immediate manager this afternoon – I imagine he’s aware of comments and the support – of my intention to come back if they’re happy for me to come back without the dog short-term.
‘I’ll do my notice. If I’m allowed to, I’ll carry on with my dog. I’m genuinely not angry or bitter, it’s just a situation that wouldn’t work.’
Mr Bunce added he hoped SWR would reconsider and make an allowance, especially considering he is the sole worker at the station.
Many residents in the area have supported Mr Bunce and his dog.
Writing on NextDoor, one said: ‘This is absolutely awful! Richard you are the best station master and a total asset to British Rail.’
Another said: ‘I’m new to the area but every time I’ve been to the station thought how lovely it is to see your dog at work with you. Can’t see what the problem is – world’s gone mad.
‘Total nonsense on part of the company…happy station masters and dogs bring a smile to most commuters’ faces – bad judgement call on the part of your ex-company in my opinion.’
A spokesperson for South Western Railway said: ‘While we don’t allow dogs to be brought into workplaces across our network, we recognise the strength of feeling in Horsley and are looking into the individual circumstances of this case.’
Published at Sat, 06 Nov 2021 10:36:39 +0000