London commuters are up in arms about the fourth day of strike action by staff of Southern which has caused major disruption across the south east on Tuesday (June 21).
However, many are so weary about the poor service on Southern that they have turned to caustic humour to voice their grievance, with many using Twitter to make a similar point – the service during the strike is better than on other days
One commuter we spoke to should, in theory, be in home every night to put his children to bed. He never is.
“I’ve run out of anger and I’ve run out of upset. Now I just accept it as part of my life.”
The strikes on Southern are the latest episode in a tale of failure that has many calling for the Government to step in and relieve the operator, Govia Thameslink Railway, of its franchise which covers the popular London escape route to Brighton.
First there was the chaos caused by the London Bridge upgrade but as that settled down, it became clear that the revamp was a cover for a much deeper malaise.
London Labour MP Chuka Umunna called the operation “an appalling joke” while rail minister Claire Perry said her meetings with Southern had been “frustrating” .
The bosses have been hauled before every kind of committee and watchdog and chastised by every form of passenger group but appear unable to get the trains to any form of timetable – although a spokesman did admit: “We know the train service has not been good enough and apologise to passengers.”
While Department of Transport is bringing in regulations to reduce the window of trains classified as late from 10 minutes to one minute, such minute tardiness would be the dream of Southern commuters whose journeys are often one, two, three hours late – or not there at all.
The latest dispute is typical of the toxic relations between management and staff. It concerns the shift of responsibility for closing the doors from conductor to guard.
Rail union leader Mick Cash said: “The union knows that when Southern talks about ‘changing the role of the guard’ what they really mean is getting rid of the guard.
“We have no option to strike to stop that lethal gamble being bulldozed through.”
Levels of sickness among staff have skyrocketed to the point where Southern are calling the absences “unofficial strike action”. A move to driver-only trains will circumnavigate the requirement for a guard to be on the train for the service to run, thus reducing the problems caused by cancellations due to staff shortages.
Southern says driver only-operated trains are “just as safe as operating trains without a conductor” and adds that a range of changes will mean a better service.
Southern said of Tuesday’s action: “We apologise to our passengers for the disruption this will inevitably cause.
“A restricted service will once again be in operation, with many routes having a reduced service, and on some routes there will be no train service at all.”
The RMT is in the unusual position of not being the villains of the piece. Such is the general loathing of Southern management among its passengers, that the union, regularly reviled for bringing London to a halt has found itself elevated in standing by Southern’s incompetence.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend.