Search

It's Not About The Doors!

Exposing DfT/Govia Lies

WHY THE GTR DOO DEAL IS BAD NEWS FOR TRAINCREW AND PASSENGERS

 

“We have secured a deal that protects our modernisation programme for the extension of DOO and the new OBS role which we’ve now implemented and is retained going forward as part of this agreement.” – Charles Horton, GTR Boss, 2 February 2017.

The GTR deal is bad news for Traincrew and passengers.

  • You have lost the guarantee of a second member of staff on your train. Drivers will be on their own and exposed and vulnerable. We already know that GTR have been running many trains without OBS and the exemptions in Appendix A of the deal will make this even more frequent and represent the thin end of the wedge leading to the de-staffing of our trains.
  • OBSs will not be safety critical, despite what was said at the conclusion of the talks.   They will only be trained to “undertake the relevant specific degraded safety critical task.” So the OBSs –even if one is on a train – will not be trained and passed out in the safety critical responsibilities that a guard/conductor has including  track safety – they are not PTS trained;  protection; and  route.
  • There cannot be and will be no legal indemnity from prosecution for drivers if a passenger is injured or killed in a PTI incident and the driver is responsible for closing the doors. Remember that the driver of the train involved in PTI incident at Hayes and Harlington is now being prosecuted.  And GTR has only committed to “explore” an indemnity scheme.
  • And we need to remember the ORR report on Southern DOO of January 5th 2017 which says: GTR-Southern has carried out some research and trials into leaving the in-cab monitors on until the low speed relay operates at approx. 4mph. This is the accepted practice on London Overground 378 units since approximately 2014.” Is this one of the technology improvements that GTR wants to introduce under Appendix D? Rail unions have rightly opposed this until now, for the obvious reason that this will distract the driver from observing the signal ahead, particularly with a 10 or 12-car train that stops on the platform close to or right up to the starting signal. Leaving the monitors on as the train is moving increases the risk of a SPAD if the starting signal reverts to red while the train is at the station, or if starting from a platform on a single yellow.
  • With no guarantee of a second member of staff the deal is a disaster for disabled passengers and will see even more disabled passengers left behind on platforms.
  • The deal allows for the extension of DOO to nearly all Southern Lines.

Protect yourself. No More DOO on Southern

 

THE SO-CALLED DEAL BETWEEN ASLEF AND GTR

Comment by train crew rep on the ASLEF/GTR agreement. The agreement itself is reproduced underneath:

The speedy condemnation of this disgraceful agreement between ASLEF and GTR does credit to the RMT.

I believe the swift and total condemnation issued by the RMT of this TUC organised surrender can act as a rallying call to our members as the fight to achieve a Safe, Accessible and Secure rail network continues. There is undoubtedly a difficult road for us to travel but we will be successful in our struggle provided we maintain our solidarity.

This proposal drawn up by GTR and ASLEF may not ask turkeys to vote for Christmas but it does recommend drivers voting for Prison Sentences. It also supports the work of the Tory Government in its attacks on the disabled by removing the “step and go” rights from those who require assistance to board rail services.


We need to remind Drivers that ASLEF is their Union and that it is their right to decide how to cast their vote .The Drivers should read the statements made by their General Secretary prior to ASLEF incurring many thousands of pounds in court costs (costs which GTR had previously offered to cover). Drivers must ask themselves why they are being asked to vote for a settlement which contradicts everything their General Secretary had to say in the last few months. 

Mick Whelan, ASLEF General Secretary, has made the following statements in the last 6 months:

  • “So there is no dubiety it is the policy of my organisation that there will be no agreement to extend DOO anywhere and even if DCO is agreed by other trade unions we will not be agreeing this method of operation either.”
  • “I haven’t seen one company director in the past 20 years who has got a fiduciary responsibility hauled in to the dock, had their job taken away or go to prison for it – but I have seen it happen to guards, platform staff and drivers.”
  • “We threatened a judicial review in Scotland about disabled access because the law in Scotland on transport access was far stronger than down here, and that helped us win. I believe Southern are suggesting that disabled people in England ring up 24 hours in advance of when they want to travel. The whole basis of the industry is ‘step on and go’. The idea that sectors of our community should have to book in advance when others don’t is anathema to me. Everybody should have the same access and rights to get on and off a train.’”
It is imperative that the traincrew unity which has been so evident since April 2016 continues. Drivers have been a source of support for conductors over these many months and we must ensure that we can now  give them the confidence necessary to vote to reject this agreement which is an insult to the driving grade and everything they have stood for over the years.


emailing-resolution-package-final-agreement-pdf-1-copy

emailing-resolution-package-final-agreement-pdf-2-copyemailing-resolution-package-final-agreement-pdf-3-copyemailing-resolution-package-final-agreement-pdf-4-copyemailing-resolution-package-final-agreement-pdf-5-copyemailing-resolution-package-final-agreement-pdf-6-copyemailing-resolution-package-final-agreement-pdf-7-copyemailing-resolution-package-final-agreement-pdf-8-copyemailing-resolution-package-final-agreement-pdf-9-copyemailing-resolution-package-final-agreement-pdf-10-copy

2ndhandcar-copy

AND THE TALKS GO ON and ON and ON and ON and ON and ON – SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED?

To answer the  question ” should we be concerned by the on going talks between ASLEF and GTR ” we need to separate the question into two parts.

We should be concerned by GTR’s refusal to recognise the RMT’s right to be involved in these talks. This would appear to be an attempt by GTR  to ratchet up the tension between themselves and our Union and to create a rift between ASLEF and the RMT.

We should be less concerned by the prospect of ASLEF reaching an agreement  with GTR that would be in conflict with our own position. The RMT and ASLEF hold the same position of being totally opposed to any extension of DOO.

The following quotes from Mick Whelan, ASLEF General Secretary confirm this fact:

ASLEF statement regarding possible expansion of DOO made September 24 2015

Update ASLEF Statement:

“So there is no dubiety it is the policy of my organisation that there will be no agreement to extend DOO anywhere and even if DCO is agreed by other trade unions we will not be agreeing this method of operation either.”

– Mick Whelan, ASLE&F general secretary, 24 September 2015.

In November 2015 the following joint statement was released.

Joint ASLEF / RMT Statement opposing Driver Only Operation / Driver Controlled Operation:

 

“We are completely opposed to Driver Only Operation and its forms, including Driver Controlled Operation (DCO) / Drive Door Operation (DDO), throughout the network.

 

We firmly believe this method of operation is less safe for passengers and the workforce and our unions will not agree to the extension of DOO or DCO /DDO under any circumstances.

 

This includes recent proposals for DOO by Great Western in respect of the new IEP trains and the Governments proposals for DCO for the next Northern Rail franchise.

 

The responsibility of the driver of the train is to drive, which requires 100% focus. It is less safe for both the driver and passengers if the driver is distracted by additional duties such as protecting the platform train interface. The Guard / Conductor should retain responsibility for door operation.

 

We are particularly concerned for example that there have been a number of incidents in the last year across all sectors where even more pressure has been placed on drivers rather than questioning the safety of DOO. 

 

We are also opposed to DOO and DCO/DDO because its introduction would remove the current guarantee that passengers will always have a safety critical safety second person on the train who can not only deal with emergencies but can also provide general reassurance and assistance to passengers.

 

It is also essential for the safety of both the driver and passengers to have the guarantee of a Guard / Conductor on the train to protect the train driver and passengers in the event of driver incapacity.  This was demonstrated by a recent incident at Sutton Weaver where a driver received a severe electrical shock and was assisted by the Guard who was able to call for the emergency services and accompany a doctor who was travelling on the train to provide emergency first aid.

 

With record passengers numbers we now need more rail staff, not less. Services for passengers should be improved by investment in modern railway infrastructure and rolling stock – not by dismissing and deskilling Guards and placing event more responsibility on the driver.

 

We will campaign in unity to oppose any extension of DOO and DCO/DDO and to seek to explore ways of reversing it where it has been introduced. This will include making our views clear to the employers, government and other politicians.”

 

Mick Whelan                          

ASLEF General Secretary

Mick Cash  

RMT General Secretary          


Mick Whelan made the following statements in the Guardian on the 14th of January 2017:

  • “I haven’t seen one company director in the past 20 years who has got a fiduciary responsibility hauled in to the dock, had their job taken away or go to prison for it – but I have seen it happen to guards, platform staff and drivers.” 
  • “No. This isn’t purely about us believing in the protection of jobs, because they tell us they’re going to keep all these people. But they are going to take their safety skills away. They won’t be able to evacuate, lead people down a track if there’s a major incident, deal with anybody if a driver collapses.”
  • “We threatened a judicial review in Scotland about disabled access because the law in Scotland on transport access was far stronger than down here, and that helped us win. I believe Southern are suggesting that disabled people in England ring up 24 hours in advance of when they want to travel. The whole basis of the industry is ‘step on and go’. The idea that sectors of our community should have to book in advance when others don’t is anathema to me. Everybody should have the same access and rights to get on and off a train.’”

It is clear from these statements from Mick Whelan that ASLEF and the RMT are in full agreement regarding any solution for trains which were operating with a second Safety Critical person  prior to April  2016 and that is:

A SECOND SAFETY CRITICAL PERSON ON EVERY TRAIN  BEFORE IT CAN RUN IN PASSENGER SERVICE, NO EXCEPTIONS.

Providing ASLEF have the courage to  stand by their policy with it’s commitment to a Safe, Accessible and Secure rail network then we should have nothing to fear from the on going talks at the TUC.

 

SAFEST METHOD OF TRAIN DISPATCH

A document found on a train:

ORR Report on DOO

No one should be surprised by what is contained in the ORR report. This report was produced by a supposedly independent Rail Regulator who had previously advised the Rail TOCs on the most cost effective method of introducing DOO.

DOO has always been viewed as a means of cutting costs for the industry. The ORR working on behalf of the TOCs and the DFT has, since before the infamous McNulty report, been laying the ground work for cutting costs with the introduction of driver only operation.

The main  point in the report which  must be challenged is the statement that DOO could be viewed as a safer means of operation than dispatch with a Conductor.

The argument that the ORR put forward to justify this position is that the Driver will be able to observe the platform train interface for “a short period of time” as the train departs the station something that a Conductor carrying out Vestibule dispatch would be unable to do. It is certainly a new approach to safety to suggest that a Driver of a vehicle moving forward should be concentrating on screens showing him what is happening behind him. It would still seem desirable to have Vestibule dispatch over DOO as this method at least allows the driver to concentrate on what is occurring in front of him with the conductor viewing the platform from the door panel until the train has cleared the station.

There is of course a third method which provides a safer means of dispatch than DOO or Vestibule.

Vestibule dispatch is Southern’s preferred method of dispatch and was enforced on Conductors by the Company.

The ORR are stating that DOO is a safer means of dispatch because Vestibule dispatch does not allow the Conductor sufficient visibility of the platform train interface as the train leaves the station. If this is correct then the question needs to be asked of the ORR why they allowed Southern to bring in Vestibule dispatch as their preferred method of operation  when there was a safer method available.

When the slam door stock were phased out and replaced with power door stock, the method of operation for train dispatch was a Conductor closing the doors from an intermediate or rear Cab and viewing the platform train interface until the carriages were clear of the station.

This was/is the safest method of train dispatch available, as it allows for the platform train interface to be observed for the longest period of time by a Safety Critical trained member of staff who is in a Cab and therefore free from distractions. There is also an Emergency Stop button located at the dispatch point in case the conductor requires to stop the train due to an incident at the platform/train interface.

The comparison that the ORR needed to do was between DOO and the safest alternative method. It is clear that if such a comparison was done then Cab dispatch by a Conductor would be the safest method of dispatch by some margin.

The ORR have facilitated Southern over the years in moving from Cab dispatch to Vestibule dispatch not just to help increase ticket sales/revenue flow but because it was also seen as a vital step to introducing DOO by downgrading the Conductor role in safe train dispatch.

If the ORR  had not facilitated Southern in their move to Vestibule dispatch they could not now be claiming DOO as the safer method.

The increase in passenger numbers over the past years and the predicted increases to come in the future, have all led to both platforms and trains becoming more crowded.  The need to prioritise safe train dispatch has become of critical importance as the dangers associated with the platform train interface are exasperated by the further  increase in passenger numbers. To deal effectively with this increased risk it should be seen as essential to introduce the safest method of train dispatch and not the cheapest method as part of a cost cutting plan.

Cab dispatch by a Safety Critical trained Conductor provides the safest method of working by protecting the interests of both customers and traincrew and the RMT and ASLEF  should start demanding  its re-introduction without delay.

 

SOUTHERN TRAINCREW NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR RAIL CHAOS AFTER ASTON VILLA MATCH

The attacks on Brighton traincrew by GTR and the Argus for the transport debacle on Friday night that left Albion and Villa fans stranded are without justification. The only industrial action which is being taken are the official strike days which are well publicised in advance. There is no unofficial action taking place and traincrew, both Drivers and Conductors, continue to work rest days and overtime when they choose. We fully support the stance taken by Albion’s chairman that incidents like Friday night place the safety of football fans and other rail users at risk.

SO WHAT WENT WRONG?

It was clear in the lead up to the match that there would be transport issues at the final whistle. Those who regularly attend Albion’s home matches know that supporters travel to Falmer from late afternoon onwards for an evening kick off which means that the supporters are ferried to the match over an extended period and that on match days train services are strengthened (for obvious reasons) from 3/4 coaches up to 6/8 coach services.

This did not happen on Friday night despite it being well publicised that it was going to be a sell out crowd. Supporters struggled to get to the match on 3 coach services with the overcrowding and delays this caused but due to the supporters travelling over a number of hours the railway could still operate safely.

The safety issues occur when all the supporters want to leave from the stadium at the same time and the train operator is unable to supply the extra coaching stock necessary to allow this to happen in an orderly fashion.

For whatever reason this would appear to be the position GTR found themselves in on Friday.

We know that GTR did not strengthen services to get supporters to the match and we are left to conclude that they were still unable to supply enough coaches to move supporters from Falmer at the final whistle.

Despite GTR’s claims, supported by the Argus, that they were unable to run a service due to traincrew shortages it would appear much more likely (as they did not strengthen services to get supporters to the match) that a decision was made to suspend services from Falmer at the end of the match to prevent a safety risk on the rail network caused by having insufficient coaching stock to transport the fans safely.

Southern traincrew are supporters of Brighton and Hove Albion and are understandably upset at being blamed for this shambles. We accept responsibility for disruption caused on our strike days but these are at least well advertised in advance. We want to make it clear that we do not carry out any form of unofficial industrial action and it is our goal through our official action to ensure a Safe Accessible and Secure service for the Albion supporters and all rail users.


Paul Barber, Brighton and Hove Albion chief executive:

http://www.seagulls.co.uk//news/article/2016-17/paul-barber-southern-rail-3430894.aspx

http://www.seagulls.co.uk/news/article/2016-17/paul-barber-brighton-hove-albion-southern-3429410.aspx

The Argus:

http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/14919496.Snaking_as_far_as_the_eye_can_see__the_hell_that_was_the_Amex_last_Friday/?ref=mr&lp=1

http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/14916831.Albion_fans_call_for_action_to_prevent_more_travel_chaos_after_matches/

Letter from RMT to Office of Rail and Road:

https://www.scribd.com/document/331815267/ORR-Letter-Falmer-v-Villa-3-2#from_embed

BBC Sussex Drive at 5 on Falmer debacle (c.8mins) with interview with Angie Doll, GTR Passenger Services Director (c.9:40):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04dqcvc

My Old Man Said – Villa Supporters’ Blog on Falmer Debacle, “Southern Rail just lied”:

http://www.myoldmansaid.com/brighton-ceo-slams-southern-rail-on-behalf-of-brighton-and-villa-fans/

SOUTHERN RAIL AND THE PSYCHOLOGY OF CROWD SAFETY

 

We have kindly been given permission to republish this blog by Dr John Drury, a Social Psychologist at the University of Sussex, and a crowd behaviour expert. He appeared on BBC Sussex this morning to discuss crowd behaviour and passengers’ safety concerns about Southern Rail. 

We have consistently maintained that this dispute is about safety, accessibility and security. For years us guards have struggled to provide passengers with information as the company cut Control staff, preferring passengers to do the work themselves through social media because it is cheaper. With the correct investment in staff, in rolling stock, in infrastructure, in maintenance, and in information, the railway should be safe, reliable and affordable for everyone. Underneath we republish the ABCommuters’ report and testimonies referred to in the blog and discussed on BBC Sussex.  

BBC Sussex programme here. Listen from 2:09:00.  

Dr John Drury can be contacted here.

dft-safety-request-copy


I was asked today to appear on BBC Radio to comment on a report from the Association of British Commuters which described the recent experiences of passengers on Southern Rail trains and platforms. These testimonies painted a picture of stress, anxiety and fear for many passengers. The passengers’ concerns seemed understandable. People did not feel safe on the trains and platforms.

Based on the research on the psychology of crowd safety, two factors that are important in enhancing or diminishing the sense of safety that people feel in a crowd: density and relationships of trust.

On density, we know that density of five people per square metre (5ppm2) and above is objectively dangerous. Any push in a crowd of this density can cause a shock wave and a fatal crush. And dense crowds have very poor front-to-back communication, meaning that those at the back of a crowd have no idea how dense and dangerous it is at the front. So those at the back of a densely-packed platform could accidentally push those at the front onto the rail without realising.

Yet our research has shown that, in many crowds of far greater density than 5ppm2, people report feeling safe. This is what we found in our study of pilgrims’ experiences in the Grand Mosque, Mecca, during Hajj. So what is the other factor that matters, that might be responsible for the feelings of anxiety and fear among Southern Rail passengers?

The other factor is a relationship of trust – specifically between the crowd and those managing the crowd, as our research on other kinds of stressful crowd events has shown. Commuters on trains rely on the company managing the trains and the stations. They rely on them:

  • To manage the numbers. When this isn’t done it undermines trust and confidence.
  • To have sufficient personnel available. This is one of the problems highlighted by the Association of British Commuters (ABC) report.
  • To ensure the personnel are sufficiently trained. One passenger comment in the ABC report is this: ‘on strike days, … more concern for me is that there never seem to be any safety-qualified staff either on the stations or on the trains’
  • To communicate reliably and regularly

If the company cannot be relied upon to do these things, the result is quite understandable passenger fear and anxiety.

Finally, the BBC asked me about the dangerous behaviour by some passengers. Crowds of people made ‘mad dashes’ across platforms to get to trains, sometimes risking their own and others’ safety. And there were repeated reports of fighting.

Anxiety and fear alone cannot account for these responses. When we looked at the behavioural responses of those commuters caught up in the London bombings of July 7th 2005, we found fear but we found almost none of these ‘antisocial’ responses. In both cases (bombing and Southern Rail today) there was ‘scarcity’ – either of safe passage or of trains running. But only in the case of Southern Rail today are these passengers put in the position of being individuals competing against other individuals. With a scarcity of trains, people defined as ‘customers’ compete, like people fighting over bargains in a sale. And with no reliable information from the companies, it is not surprising that people treat the next train as perhaps their last chance of getting home. Based on what we know about how common fate changes the boundaries of concern for people faced with disaster, perhaps the solution is collective identity and action as passengers (not ‘customers’) to change the current situation for the common good.


123

UPDATED ACCESSIBILITY MAP TO ACCOUNT FOR EXPANDED DOO AREA FOLLOWING AXING OF GUARD

We have been asking passengers and staff members over the last few months to ask for Accessibility Maps at ticket offices on the Southern network. These maps inform passengers who need assistance whether stations are staffed and if there is step-free access amongst other things, pretty essential if you are travelling in a wheelchair. We discovered that there were no current paper Accessibility Maps to be found and we challenged the company to justify why this was the case. It was obvious to us that this was because GTR were holding off publishing a new map because they were waiting until they had forced through Driver Only Operation over the entire network and did not want to alert staff or disabled passengers that this was their intention. They wanted to save money and increase profits by not printing a map they would soon have to change again. That is the contempt they hold for passengers with special needs. Needless to say GTR refused to grace us with a reply.

In response we decided to update the Accessibility Map ourselves and published this article a month or so ago. At the time we were just speculating what the effect of removing the 2nd safety critical person from the train would have on the ability of disabled and vulnerable passengers to ‘turn up and go’. We had to guess from our route knowledge which stations would be negatively affected and adapted the map accordingly. It took quite a lot of work to make the new map but what a waste of time it turned out to be! No sooner had we published it when GTR/Southern began to rollout their new network map on 377 rolling stock. It’s not an updated Accessibility Map but they had obviously(!) used our new map as a template as they have tried to negate our negative representation of the ‘red triangle’ with a sleight of hand trick to show how many stations are wheelchair friendly by using a ‘green tick’. Very positive! A brief glance at the map shows a green tick almost everywhere (in fact some stations have a tick which they don’t warrant). However it is in the legend where the reality of the situation is revealed. It states,

“Step-free access between train and platform requires a staff-operated ramp. If you require a ramp or need help getting on or off trains, please book this in advance and we’ll make sure staff are available to help, otherwise there may be a significant delay to your journey.”

So in other words, there won’t be a second staff member on board the train as promised by GTR! It was a complete waste of time updating the map because now if you want to travel and need assistance you must ALWAYS book in advance from ANY station! The strange thing is GTR have not provided a minimum time to book! So does it mean that you can ring ten minutes before or does it need to be 24hrs? Your guess is as good as ours! Also the map is placed around 6ft high. How is someone in a wheelchair supposed to see it? Here it is so you can see the pre-booking advice for yourselves:

377-new-map-detail

And here is the full map. Lots of green ticks everywhere but unfortunately you cannot board the train unless you have booked in advance. You can get on to the station but YOU CAN’T GET ON THE TRAIN! (We have not checked all the ticks but we have noticed one glaring mistake – a green tick for Glynde where there is only 1 platform step-free, back to the drawing board GTR):

377mapbetter

So back to the Accessibility Map.

This is the current Southern Station Accessibility Map:

original-map-small-copy

Below is an edited Southern Station Accessibility Map to account for expanded Driver Only Operation area following axing of second safety critical staff member from trains. We have emphasised the East and West Coastway, Seaford and Oxted routes (we have corrected the non-electrified route to Uckfield which we believe will retain 171 rolling stock and therefore Guards, for now – thanks to whoever tweeted us this info). We are not sure of staffing at stations north of Redhill but we will edit further once we know more. Please help us with any extra information to increase accuracy.

At the moment, as can be seen in the map above, any passenger requiring assistance can ‘turn up and go’ at any accessible station on these lines due to a guard being present on the train (normally marked by a green or yellow circle with black outline). In the map below we have added the orange triangle with red surround to demonstrate how this will change: 24 hours notice would now be needed to ensure there is no significant delay to passenger journey and that there is someone there to provide assistance. Please see the key on the map for further information.

map-small-updated-10-11-16-copy

 

PICKET LINE VISIT FROM DISABLED PEOPLE AGAINST CUTS ACTIVIST

We always welcome blog submissions – as long as we substantially agree with the content! This is a great article sent in by Brighton guards; it is written by a Disabled People Against Cuts activist who joined them on the picket line. The accessibility issue is beginning to receive the attention it deserves. GTR and the DfT must carry out a proper assessment of the impact axing the second safety critical staff member will have on passengers who require assistance, as recommended by the Transport Select Committee. Until then their ‘modernisation’ plans should be put on hold.

We encourage more people to join picket lines in future at Barnham, Brighton, Eastbourne, Horsham, Selhurst and Victoria Traincrew depots. Safety, Accessibility and Security on the railway isn’t just the guards’ fight, it’s everyone’s fight!  


btn-191016I’ve hit the RMT picket line outside Brighton Station, last week and then again this week. You may think that as a member of DPAC I’d have better things to do what with the continued pernicious WCA, the ongoing PIP roll out, the various other assaults on the dignity, independence and in some cases the very lives of the sick and disabled in this country by an invidious Government who prefer to make sure that the public purse supports the rich, the multi-nationals and the bankers who continue to rape, pillage and loot public services for private gain. With our NHS on the brink of collapse and doctors forced to work under unsafe working conditions thanks to the enforced introduction of a ludicrous contract putting patients and doctors, as well as other medical staff, in danger.

Yesterday I went to the Travel Centre at Brighton Railway Station and asked for the Station Accessibility Guide. I depend on a power chair to give me independent mobility. I often travel to various places and, like most people, these journeys aren’t always pre-planned. I thought it would be handy to have a leaflet to hand so if I decided that I wanted to go to St Helier to visit a friend I could just look at it to find out whether I can get off the train there … I’ve looked now BTW and for those who are interested, the answer is a resounding No! I can neither get on nor off a train there or any number of other places.

Bless the poor fellow I approached with my request. No, there was no Station Accessibility Guide however he could print one off for me. He pushed a couple of buttons, went to the printer and got me … a nice little print of Brighton Station showing me where the toilets, the benches and the step free entrances were. Thank you but no, that is not what I was after. I wanted to get a Station Accessibility Guide for all the stations on the Southern routes. You’d have thought there would be a leaflet but it seems that they no longer print them.

In fact the last time one printed was way back in 2012 as far as I know. He went to the back office, came back and told me he could print one off for me. He did. It wasn’t very clear as it was an A4 print of what was essentially an A3 map but the reading of it was even worse than the lack of clarity. The number of Stations that on the 19th of October 2016 are inaccessible for those needing assistance on and off the trains is frightening.

Here is a link for those who want to view the current Network Accessibility Map:

http://www.southernrailway.com/…/network_map_accessibility_…

I wasn’t really thinking of making public my reasons for attending Brighton Station, leaving my home at 6am to make my way there to join a load of guards picketing; to stand, or in my case sit, there for a few hours in the cold. But this changed my mind.

People need to know that this is about far more then who closes the doors on the train. This is about the safety and security of passengers and staff which is being sold out for the sake of increased profits for Capitalists who will continue to reap in profits … Southern Rail co-owner, Go-Ahead, reported profits of 100 million according to an article in BBC Business on 2nd September 2016 … while depending on subsidies from the Public Purse. The total subsidy to DfT franchised train operators was 5.7 pence per passenger mile in 2015-16, up from 5.6 pence per passenger mile in 2014-15 for those interested (source: Department for Transport dated 13th October 2016).

A couple of years ago I needed to get to Chester for a course I was to attend. It was quite a lengthy journey from my home in Brighton and so I planned ahead and made sure I contacted Assisted Travel well in advance of my prospective journey. In fact it was about a week or so before. As it happened, trouble started as soon as I arrived in Euston to get on my Chester bound part of the journey. I wasn’t on the list. Never mind, if I cared to wait someone would put me on the train. As an aside, no one saw fit to inform me that there was no refreshment trolley, that the wheelchair space was in full sunlight space with no room to move and that the canteen on the train was not accessible for lone wheelchair using travellers.

When we got to Chester, everyone alighted from the train and I waited for someone to fetch the ramp to get me off the train. The train started filling up with people London bound and I was still waiting. No one had seen fit to inform the driver, the conductor nor the destination station that a wheelchair passenger was on the train. I had to push the alarm to avoid being returned to London.
In January of this year I had an early appointment in London. I was quite ready to take a late train to London and spend the night at Victoria Station to make sure I’d get to my appointment on time. No need I was informed by the helpful staff at the Travel Centre at Brighton Station. There is a train at 6:48am that will get you there in plenty of time. I duly presented myself at Brighton station at 6am. I was assisted on to the train at 6:40am. At 6:50am the train was full to bursting with commuters and we were informed that we would be diverted via Lewes.

I decided to get off the train but, due to a lack of ramps, and the fact that the cover to the alarm button was locked, I was unable to contact the guard. To cut a long story short, I spent 2.5 hours being dragged through Lewes, to Haywards Heath to a field half way to Three Bridges where we sat for about 15 minutes before being told that we were being diverted back to Haywards Heath where I finally managed to get off the train. To get a train back to Brighton having totally missed my appointment. It took me a further 2 months to finally get someone in Southern Rail to address my complaint.

What happened was a lack of communications between the various bodies … In the first instance a failure by the Assisted Travel people to communicate with the appropriate station staff and then down the chain of command, for want of a better phrase; in the second instance, failure to communicate with the guard and failure to make the alarm button available to the disabled passenger. And yes in this case I was a disabled passenger and not just a wheelchair using passenger as I was disabled by the lack of access to an alarm button that would have alerted the guard to my existence.

Guards on the train do a lot more than merely ensure that the doors are shut. They are there to ensure that passengers are safe. If a passenger needs assistance to alight a train, if a passenger is harassed by a drunk on the train … what happens if a passenger suddenly gets taken ill or worse, what if the driver suddenly experiences a heart attack? It is the guard who will be able to ensure that the train does not run away with a load of hapless passengers by making it safe and ensuring that the powers that be stop any other trains from shunting into it causing a collision with all the consequences of a high speed collision.

And yes … on a purely personal basis, given the number of inaccessible stations already on the list of possible stops, these inaccessible stations will only increase with the removal of guards.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑