‘It has ruined my life’ – impact of Southern rail strikes revealed

Demonstration against the strikes
Demonstration against the strikes
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The impact of ‘the utter breakdown of service’ on Southern Rail was laid bare in a survey by a campaign group.

One respondent who makes a daily commute from Brighton to Vauxhall said: “Quite simply, it has ruined my life.”

Another who commutes from Brighton to London Victoria said: “I honestly believe I wouldn’t be on a high dose of antidepressants if it weren’t for my commute.”

The survey, which was conducted by the Association of British Commuters (ABC), gathered a total of 1,099 responses mostly from those who commute to work or education every day.

The questions addressed the disruption on the rails since the beginning of the dispute between Govia Thameslink (GTR), which operates the Southern franchise, and the RMT union.

The online survey gave respondents the option to skip certain questions, meaning not all of the 1,099 answered each question.

Of the 873 people who answered a question on what actions they would like to see taken, 84.42 per cent said they would like to see Govia stripped of its franchise, and 73.08 per cent said they wanted transport secretary Chris Grayling and/or rail minister Paul Maynard to resign over the crisis.

When asked who is the most responsible for the disruption out of Southern Rail/GTR, the Department for Transport (DfT) and the RMT and ASLEF unions, 23.43 per cent said Southern/GTR are the most responsible, 23.31 per cent said it was the DfT, while 5.36 per cent said the unions were most responsible.

But most of those surveyed – 44.34 per cent– said all the groups were equally responsible.

When asked if they sympathise with the RMT and ASLEF strikes, 24 per cent said they totally support the strikes, 41.26 per cent said they sympathised but could not support the strikes due to its impact on their lives, while 34.74 per cent said they do not support the strikes or the unions’ reasons for striking.

A spokesperson for ABC said: “Our passenger-led campaign produced the survey to highlight the real extent of suffering in the South, which goes far beyond the phenomenon of the current strikes – viewed by many as a symptom – not the cause – of the utter breakdown of service we have suffered in 2016.

“Thousands of people are now at breaking point, and the Association of British Commuters continues to advocate on their behalf – calling for immediate and transparent government intervention into this failed company as well as a fully independent public inquiry into the circumstances behind the collapse of Southern Rail.”

ABC was set up earlier this year as a pressure group for Southern passengers, initially to protest against the ongoing disruption. In September the group raised more than £26,290 to fund the application stage of a judicial review into the Department for Transport’s (DfT) handling of the Southern dispute.

Responding to the survey a spokesperson for Southern said: “We’re sorry for what passengers have been experiencing and are determined to restore the service they rightly expect.

“Despite the unions’ disputes, we’ve never wavered from moving forward with our modernisation plans, refocusing conductors’ responsibilities through the new On-board Supervisor role which will mean fewer delays, fewer cancellations and better on-board customer service.

“Now we are virtually finished with the transfer to driver-controlled operation, we call on the unions to stop this pointless action. No-one wants an end to this more than us and our door remains open for productive talks.”

For more on the survey, visit: abcommuters.files.wordpress.com