Rail bosses at Birmingham New Street were forced to close the ticket office at the new £550 million station – as the mercury soared to 32C (90F) due to lack of air conditioning.
The new office was shut down for two hours when stifling temperatures made it impossible for staff to carry on working at the height of the heatwave.
The emergency closure – while temporary air conditioning units were brought in to bring temperatures inside the basement offices down to 23C (73F) – sparked a heated row between the TSSA rail union and two rail companies, Virgin and Network Rail.
“You couldn’t make this up,” said union general secretary Manuel Cortes. “We have Network Rail spending hundreds of millions on rebuilding a station which is used by more than 30 million passengers a year.
“And they forget to install air conditioning for ticket office staff working in offices on the lower ground floor under a giant shopping centre.
“Our members are then expected to work in temperatures of over 90 degrees while bosses on the floor above them sit around in the cool of their air-conditioned offices.”
He also hit out at Virgin Rail, which operates the ticket office at the station, the busiest in Britain outside London.
“The heatwave has lasted a fortnight and Virgin should not have waited until temperatures hit 90 degrees before asking NR for temporary air conditioning for our staff.
“No doubt Sir Richard Branson and Sir David Higgins (NR chief exec) will blame the wrong sort of heat but that simply is not good enough.”
The union has fired off formal letters of complaint to Network Rail and Virgin.
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “As soon it became apparent last week that the temperature in the ticket office was too high, it was temporarily closed while we sourced temporary air conditioning units to keep staff and customers cool.
"The ticket office has now reopened with work on the permanent air conditioning system expected to complete over the next week.”
Meanwhile, Virgin Trains accused the TSSA of “mischief-making.” Tony Collins, Chief Executive of Virgin Trains, said the union was “not in possession of the correct facts” following the two-hour closure.
“The truth of the matter is that our staff wanted to carry on – which is a great credit to them – but we insisted they close the office as we felt the heat was unbearable,” he said.
“There is now a plan to bring in permanent air conditioning and we are going to close the ticket office again this weekend to allow Network Rail to do this. The TSSA is mischief-making and hasn’t got the correct facts. At no time would we expect our staff to work in those conditions.”