An Eastbourne train conductor has spoken of his distress after being verbally abused by a man using the Southen Rail campaign slogan ‘strike back’.
Bernard Barnaville, 57, of Hampden Park, was doing ticket checks on the Southern train from Haywards Heath to Eastbourne when a passenger became aggressive towards him around 7.30am on Wednesday (October 5).
“He got in my face and said ‘let’s strike back’,” said Mr Barnaville.
The conductor reported the incident, but as the train arrived at Eastbourne the man approached him again, swearing, and a colleague had to intervene.
The barriers were open at the station so the man got away before Southern Rail Neighbourhood Officers (RNO) arrived.
Mr Barnaville said, “It felt like the last straw. I cried in front of my collegues. I have never felt this bad about working for a company.
“What they are putting people through – not just staff, but passengers – it’s absolutely wrong.
“I feel like the company is doing this to me. Southern used to have posters saying they wouldn’t tolerate abuse towards their staff, but now they’ve replaced them with these new ones.”
Mr Barnaville has not received an apology from Southern.
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which runs Southern, launched a ‘major public information campaign’ on Monday (October 3) around its latest offer to the RMT union to end a long-running dispute over changes to the role of guards.
The rail operator urged passengers to ‘strike back’ on social media site Twitter and tell the RMT how they felt about plans for five strikes totalling 14 days scheduled between now and Christmas.
Posters said, “The RMT won’t listen to us. But they may listen to you. Tweet @RMTunion to tell them how you feel.”
A spokesperson for GTR said, “We do not condone attacks on our staff of any kind, and work closely with British Transport Police during their investigations into such incidents.”
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