Clever PR cannot save Southern Rail

Posted on June 14, 2016

There are companies beyond the help of a PR rescue job. One of those is Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which operates Southern Railway, the Gatwick Express and Thameslink.

They have one job – ferrying passengers from A to B – and most days they manage to royally balls it up.

Southern Rail ticket

A one-way ticket to hell (or at least the collection receipt to hell)

I’ve lived in Brighton for a mere six weeks. Because the train line is notoriously bad, I worked out a way I could avoid the commute before moving. But I appreciate I’m one of the lucky ones, with parents who live in London and allow me to sleep in their spare room two nights a week, and a job that allows me two days working from home.

I commute in just one morning a week (Mondays) and only once has my train not been cancelled. That one on-time train was short and, with only five carriages, some passengers were forced to stand for the entire 1 hour 10 minute journey.

I’ve always thought that hell wasn’t a burning fire pit. There’s a far more excruciating damnation in the subtlety of eternal boredom. No, hell is a station concourse with ‘cancelled’ in flashing lights on every board, standing room only, and a final destination that’s never reached.

Southern’s service is so piss poor that one commuter who engaged in a monologue whilst on a train with me told the carriage he had had three trains cancelled in one day, two while he was actually sitting on them.

The ongoing dispute between management and train crew has reached stalemate and, as I write, passengers are readied to protest on the concourse at Brighton station this evening, led by @southernrailout.

I’ve always thought that hell wasn’t a burning fire pit. There’s a far more excruciating damnation in the subtlety of eternal boredom.

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A petition has called for a formal review. The Government’s response? Give poor old GTR until 2018 to make things good because they are trying to reverse “decades of under-investment”. I paraphrase, but WTAF.

Figures cited by Chris Philp, MP for Croydon South, in a column for the Croydon Advertiser suggests GTR’s performance is getting worse, not better.

If commuters could see an upward curve, even a degree of progress, there might be room to cut GTR some slack while it improves the service.

As it stands, commuters have no faith. We’re not just talking about late trains here. A poor rail service affects our work, our businesses and our families.

Roll on 2021, when Transport for London gets a go at running suburban commuters lines. The only way it could do a worse job than GTR is if it didn’t bother running any trains at all.


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