Travelling on Southern

By | Category: Travel rumblings
Southern's website advice at noon today

Southern’s website advice at noon today

People travelling on Southern or Gatwick Express in Surrey, Sussex, Kent and Hampshire have had a pretty raw deal over the last six months.

Commuters have faced numerous delays due to the London Bridge improvement programme with fewer trains taking them to work but that was at least flagged up in advance. The strikes have been a different matter. Southern is in dispute with the unions over the changing role of train conductors, those people that used to be called guards.

It has got to the stage where neither seems to be able to sensibly talk to the other so yet another strike took place yesterday. Today just look at the image pulled from Southern’s website at midday today. “Major Disruption” is the message for every single line that is operated by the company. And that includes Gatwick Express meaning that international travellers both from this country and abroad are bemoaning the problems to people elsewhere. What message does that tell?

But why are there problems today if the strike was yesterday? It is because Southern says that insufficient crew have turned up. I don’t know if this is true or not and frankly, I don’t care.

What passengers want is a regular and reliable train service whether they are commuters or visitors and that is precisely what they are not getting.  People are missing flights; people are being late for work day-after-day and the company is forking out large sums in compensation. At least they are when weary travellers get around to claiming.

Ten thousand people have signed a petition calling on the company to lose its franchise. Unsurprisingly, customer satisfaction levels are dropping. Even the company says, “Our passengers have not been getting the service they expect from us and for this we apologise.” But is it all the fault of the company? It takes two to tango.

In the May update of its performance plan, the train company says that over half of the delays are the responsibility of Network Rail. If true, the government could intervene as buck passing will continue.

The Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, should step in and try to resolve it and here is one suggestion. Each of the routes loses 30% of their train operating rights and it is given to an open access operator so that they can provide a rival service with rival pricing. That might concentrate minds!

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