Just one in five think Southern suitable to run trains

The Government has faced calls to strip GTR of Southern services
The Government has faced calls to strip GTR of Southern services

Just one in five people think Southern is suitable to run a train service, according to a new opinion poll.

Research by We Own It, which is an independent campaign for public ownership, suggests strong public support that Southern services, currently run by Govia Thamslink Railway, should be run directly by the Government.

A Southern service

A Southern service

Since early 2016 the rail operator has been mired in a bitter dispute with rail unions including the RMT over plans to introduce driver-only operation on Southern trains, which would see drivers and not conductors open and close train doors.

Polling carried out by Survation found that more than half of people thought Southern is unsuitable to run the service, with one in five believing that GTR is suitable to run the service.

More than three quarters of those who responded want either Southern or the entire rail network to be brought back into public ownership.

Meanwhile 58 per cent thought that rail privatisation have failed, compared to 13 per cent who think it has been a success.

Caroline Lucas, Green Party co-leader and MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “As the Southern crisis escalates it’s become increasingly clear that this private firm has utterly failed to manage this key piece of infrastructure which hundreds of thousands of people rely on.

“My constituents are increasingly angry, stressed and anxious by the endless incompetence of Southern. It’s no wonder that over 75 per cent of people want to see public ownership of our railway.

“For the Government to do nothing in the face of such failure would show that they are ideologically committed to the failed privatisation project, rather than seeking what’s best for passengers.

“We need a modern railway, owned by the people who use and run for public good, not private profit.”

Cat Hobbs, director at We Own It, added: “We pay huge sums into our railway yet rail bosses tell us we can’t have conductors on trains to make them safer or give older and disabled passengers a helping hand.”

She continued: “The government needs to step in now - strip Southern of the franchise and bring it into public ownership.

“Under public ownership, the East Coast line made over a billion for the public purse. So why won’t the government consider this as an option?

“The only reason is that they are clinging to an ideological model from the textbooks of the 1980s. It’s high time they listened to the public and brought Southern and the rest of the rail network into public ownership.”

A report by Ian Prosser, HM’s chief inspector of railways and director of rail safety at the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), concluded that the proposed form of train dispatch ‘meets legal requirements and can be operated safely’.

But Mick Cash, general secretary at the RMT, labelled the report a ‘whitewash’ that proved the ORR is ‘not fit for purpose’.

Meanwhile Charles Horton, chief exeuctive at GTR, said: “Because of their unjustified and pointless industrial action, the travelling public have faced months of misery and hardship to their work and family lives for no substantive reason.

“The RMT and ASLEF are being wholly unreasonable and they are abusing their trade union powers to call strikes.”

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