Tougher action needed to bring an end to Southern Rail misery

Published: Tuesday 18th July 17

The council’s transport spokesman is calling on the secretary of state to do more to end the turmoil and disruption suffered by passengers on the troubled Southern Rail network.

Cllr Jonathan Cook has today (Tuesday) written to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling highlighting the long –standing “hardship” experienced by borough residents who rely on Southern’s services.

His letter follows a Government announcement on Friday that Southern’s parent company GTR had been ordered to invest an extra £14m in service improvements. But on the same day train drivers belonging to the Aslef union announced a series of further strike days over pay.

In recent months Southern has been hit by wave after wave of industrial action by both Aslef, who have previously been in dispute over driver-only trains and by the RMT union over the role of guards and conductors.

The walkouts have been compounded by Southern’s decision to operate shorter trains, despite having more rolling stock and carriages available as a result of cancellations.

In his letter to Mr Grayling Cllr Cook writes: “This borough is served by trains run by GTR, with Clapham Junction , Balham and Battersea Park stations all providing an important  service to many people living and working across the whole borough.

“The hardship caused to many of our residents by the ongoing issues surrounding Southern Rail Services are of great concern to this council. We welcome the proposed funding of a package of measures to address these earlier shortcomings. However, I am concerned that your letter suggests that there are already significant improvements in the service offered by GTR Southern Rail.

“Since the commencement of the current overtime ban by drivers the problems have returned. At that time, a revised timetable was introduced, which removed a significant number of trains from its timetable on both the Brighton Mainline but also the suburban services. I can see the general sense to this as it then allows passengers to pre plan their journeys, knowing which trains will run during this dispute. However, there is no avoiding that this new timetable has created additional delay and discomfort for passengers.


“Unfortunately, I must inform you that over the last three weeks there has also been a significant number of additional cancellations and short formations, which are difficult to explain. If there is a shortage of drivers, there should be plenty of rolling stock, which begs the question, why are many trains operating through Clapham Junction in the peak now reduced to four or five carriages?

“With the additional congestion that this causes on the platforms and the lack of any proper explanation or reason, it is frankly only through sheer good luck that there has not been a major incident. This situation has been directly experienced by many tens of thousands of our residents.  

“The situation is already at breaking point and the new strike action, along with planned works at Waterloo, will leave us with reduced services across the whole borough.  I would welcome your further intervention on Southern Rail to ensure that the current wave of cancellations and the use of unnecessarily short length trains are fully explained and the current pain felt by passengers is brought to an end.”

Cllr Cook added: “Our residents have had enough of this travel chaos. Southern’s management and the unions must sort out their differences while the minister needs to take a much tougher line with both.

“Local people who rely on these trains risk losing their jobs and their livelihoods because they simply can’t get into work on time. It is a situation that needs to be resolved straight away.”

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