Southern Railway hit the headlines this week after announcing an emergency timetable that cuts services massively due to staff shortages, industrial action and engineering works. Do you travel with Southern? Will your daily commute be affected?
In a huge blow to passengers, this week Southern Railway announced that it will be introducing an emergency timetable that will see 341 services cut every day.
Over the past few months, Southern’s passengers have had a torrid time, experiencing consistent delays and cancellations on an almost daily basis. When many were feeling that things could not get any worse, they now face mass cancellations every day for months to come.
To say that this is unacceptable is to put it mildly. Such substantial delays have a huge impact on daily life – reports of parents not making it home to see their children in an evening, employees unable to get to work in the morning and passengers spending hours stranded on platforms or on stationary trains are now common place. This can cause stress, as Kapila explains:
“I am sick and tired of being left with cancelled trains at my small station so trains run through to bigger, more important, stations. I pay for the same service. Not to mention my personal health as suffered due to the stress I experience nearly every week due to delayed and cancelled trains not getting me to work/home/anywhere I need to be on time.”
Rail regulator needs to step in
The pressure has been on the train companies to show they can bring about urgently needed basic improvements for their customers. Clearly, this is not happening with Southern, where Claire finds that even getting a refund for delays or cancellations is a battle:
“Not a day goes by where my train is without delay. They are often cancelled and with a 2-year-old son to collect from nursery, it is very stressful when this happens on the way home. They make it very difficult to get refunds, as often you can get different connections or you are not more than 30 mins late…”
With Southern failing to improve, focus must now shift to the rail regulator and government, who should not allow such a shocking service (or lack of) to continue without sanction.
To start with, where consumer law and license conditions are being breached, the regulator must take enforcement action. Likewise, where franchise agreements aren’t being adhered to, the government should take action. Such regular delays and cancellations are not acceptable, and passenger compensation is the very least passengers expect.
Trapped by train travel
But the fact of the matter is that this is not enough. Whether you travel with Southern, ScotRail or in fact any other train line, you know that rail is unlike any other market in that passengers often can’t vote with their feet; many don’t have an alternative way to travel and are locked in to season tickets for which they have paid thousands of pounds. Through thick and thin, they are stuck with their train company. This is Alison’s reality:
“Constant, stressful nightmare during the week and often a bus replacement at the weekend. Despite having an Annual Gold Card, Southern have twice disputed I travelled at my usual time, and on days when there was widespread disruption! There is no coach/bus service from my town to London, so we have no choice but to rely on this expensive, ill-maintained, infrequent service.”
Therefore, more needs to be done in the long term. Situations such as Southern’s cannot be allowed to continue or be replicated by other train companies. What is needed is a rail regulator that is a consumer watchdog with teeth. One that can challenge companies failing their passengers, and has real powers and duties it can bring to force.
Have you been caught up in the Southern delays or delays with other train companies? What action would you like to see the government and rail regulator taking?