MLAG Press Statement On Southern Performance

PRESS RELEASE – 5 July 2016

SOUTHERN RAILWAY – FIT TO RUN A RAILWAY ?

Southern Railway has now issued a replacement timetable, starting from Monday 11 July. It describes the timetable as a temporary amendment “expected to operate initially for four weeks” (note “initially”). The effect of this timetable on the MarshLink service is that the Rye Shuttles (three each way each morning and similarly in the evening – so twelve services) will not operate: in all, Southern is removing 341 of its 2250 services each day.

 

A quick recap on how we have got to this position is appropriate. Southern wish to introduce what they call “driver only operation” (“DOO”) of the train doors meaning the driver would operate the doors and so the conductor would not operate them, as now: the conductor would be given a new title and would deal with customer issues inside the train (principally collecting fares, it can be imagined). Southern has said that all conductors will be employed in this revised role and will not suffer any pay disadvantage. Meanwhile, the RMT, the rail union, argues this practice is unsafe for passengers (despite it being standard practice on other lines) and, one suspects, anticipates a future demand from Southern that the conductor isn’t required. The result, arguably, is that staff have been uncharacteristically ill and taken sick leave resulting in train services being cancelled: the cancellations are sporadic and so the service has been unpredictable adding to the torment of passengers. On staffing levels, Southern concede they have relied on staff working overtime too much and there is less interest in overtime working at the moment. Meanwhile, the Government shows signs of supporting Southern’s position although both parties were before the Transport Select Committee on Tuesday, to what effect (if any) we wait to find out. The conciliation service, ACAS, has held talks with both parties resulting in both digging deeper into their positions.

 

So why is Southern taking the action of changing its timetable ?  Southern argue that, with the current staff arriving for work each day, they can operate only so many trains per day (presumably, see above, 2250 minus 341 = 1,909 trains). They say it is better for their passengers (but passengers must judge) if they offer a timetable they believe they can operate consistently as opposed to the current unpredictable service.

 

The effect of this across the franchise area is varied – some services have been smashed, for example Seaford to Lewes. The MarshLink service will lose the twelve Shuttle services each weekday. For what it is worth, a bus service will replace the cancelled Shuttles. From MLAG’s point of view, this has the advantage of preserving the service for when normal service is resumed. However, passengers may not use the bus replacement service if it fails to make the intended connection at Ashford: MLAG normally complains about the poor connectivity at Ashford but now it is rather unfortunate that the Shuttles have the shortest connection times at Ashford and so the bus is very likely to miss connections.

Where do we go from her ? Who knows, what incentive is there for Southern or the RMT to reach a compromised settlement ? Again, it is the passengers who are disadvantaged. What a way to run a railway !

 

MLAG can only suggest checking the timetable before travelling (see http://www.southernrailway.com/revisedtimetable – go to timetable no. 10) and preferably the Live Trains information on the website to check the train you plan to take is actually operating.

 

MLAG would like to know if any of the trains in the replacement timetable does not operate. So, please advise us if you experience the new timetable not being met on info@mlag.org.uk

 

 

Stuart Harland

Chairman

MarshLink Action Group

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