‘It’s only a matter of time until someone loses their life’, says exasperated Eastbourne commuter

James Johnstone SUS-160616-162530001
James Johnstone SUS-160616-162530001

Hundreds of commuters have suffered delays on services in recent months, with more misery expected with a strike planned for Tuesday, June 21.

Commuter James Johnstone, of Old Town, tells how the problems affect him nearly every day...

“I have been a daily commuter on Southern’s railway network from Eastbourne to London for four and a half years. During this time, there have been occasions where I’ve ended getting home hours late or sometimes not at all because of snow, sun, rain, signalling faults, broken trains or any number of other reasons.

“We all know that this is part of life on the railways in Britain - there’s not a lot we can do about it so we just cross our fingers.

“However, what has been happening recently with Southern Rail takes this to new levels entirely. Ever since Govia took over the Southern franchise in July 2015, it has been noticeable that the timeliness of the trains has suffered.

“When Govia announced this year that they were planning to make it so drivers would have responsibility for opening and closing the doors on trains (using CCTV, as has been done on Gatwick Express and Thameslink services for years), the RMT Union called strike action amongst the conductors, citing the beginning of the end of conductors on the services. Two strikes have already been held with another planned for Tuesday (June 21).

“Besides the strikes, it has definitely not been business as usual. Each day my National Rail app notifies me there will be delays and cancellations due to ‘staff sickness’. Southern are claiming there has been an unusually high level of staff sickness since the strikes.

“The RMT are claiming Southern are cancelling services even when staff are available and some Southern staff have taken to social media to corroborate these claims.

“Whatever is going on, there is only one real loser – the passengers. People, like myself, who are paying upwards of £4,500 for the ‘privilege’ of travelling on this broken service. People who already have to spend at least three hours on trains each day to travel to work and have precious little time at home with their families as it is.

“Every day I speak to fellow passengers who are going to be 30, 60, or even over 100 minutes late home, meaning they miss precious time with their loved ones. There have been reports of passengers even crying because they are going to miss putting their children to bed AGAIN.

“These people may only have two hours between getting home and going to bed - having any significant portion of this time robbed from them will clearly take its toll.

“According to statistics, the 17:27 service from London Victoria to Ore, and one of the busiest commuter trains in this direction all day, has been late into Eastbourne by a total of 136 minutes this month alone (as of COB 15th June). 136 minutes across only 11 services! 1

“36 minutes of our time robbed because of a dispute between a railway company and a union, combined with general incompetence and an already extremely pressurised and overcrowded line.

I am lucky enough my employer allows me to work from home if I am unable to reach the office. I travel with people who are not this lucky, and during each strike or other failure they are forced to book a hotel - often out of their own pocket - so that they are able to attend work.

The overcrowding, late running and cancellations are starting to cost people their jobs and livelihoods and I predict that unless the Government acts soon to remove Govia from the franchise, it is only a matter of time given the extreme overcrowding on platforms and trains until somebody loses their life.”

• Have you had a nightmare commuting to and from work? Email us: eastbourne.herald@jpress.co.uk

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