What a way to run a railway

I am relieved that Southern Rail does not serve my voters. All too many commuters having been paying up to £5000 for their season ticket out of taxed income, only to discover the service is poor and often non existent, when there is another strike day.

The dispute is incomprehensible to anyone working in the competitive private sector. It is the fact that the train company has a monopoly and operates within a very controlled framework provided by the public sector, that it can indulge itself in the luxury of antagonising all its customers. They have nowhere else to go. They are prisoners of the system.

Apparently the dispute is over what duties a guard or train manager has on board the train. The company wishes the drivers to control the highly automated system of door closing and locking, as they do on other railways. The Unions say the guard needs to keep this duty. We are told no jobs will be lost if the management changes go through, and the passengers will get a better service. The Unions decline the offer and argue the train would be less safe if the driver works the doors.

Trains are best at moving large numbers of people at rush hour. Then the high capacity of a train coupled with the freedom from pedestrians, cycles and junctions that train track enjoys means it should offer the fastest way of getting into your place of work or back home again. The large numbers wanting to travel means the railway can offer a good timetable for rush hour periods, with frequent trains. The main constraint is the technology of our railway which limits the numbers of trains that can use popular track below the levels the demand would justify. It will take lighter trains, better brakes, and modern signals to increase the capacity of the commuter network.

In the meantime management and Unions need to learn to work with each other to give their passengers value for their high cost season tickets.


  1. Lifelogic
    December 14, 2016

    The way the network was privatised under the appalling John Major is much of the problem. Employment laws make firing people and controlling workers far too difficult. The EU’s demand that tracks are owned separately from the train operators also adds hugely to the problems.

    As usual the government is the problem. Most worrying of all is how many mainly young people now think the rail network should be nationalised.

    1. acorn
      December 14, 2016

      That’s what you get when Conservative governments privatise natural monopolies and leave it to the fictional “free market”.

      I note that the UK is 54th in the world for mobile digital communications. Again, a natural monopoly. Consumers are not even allowed to “roam” between supplier networks inside the UK, unlike in Europe. Roaming will reduce profits and the UK network owners don’t want it.

      As usual, be it trains or phones, Conservative governments wash their hands of it, Pontius Pilate style; and then blame the appropriate less than useless regulator.

      “Chancellor: My ambition is for the UK to be a world leader in 5G”. Don’t make me laugh.

      1. JJE
        December 14, 2016

        I have found much better network coverage in Turkey and Hungary than in the English countryside. And I don’t mean remote moorlands – just drive a few miles off the motorways and the signal is lost. It is primitive.

        1. Lifelogic
          December 15, 2016

          It is absurd that you cannot roam across networks in the UK, to pick up a strong signal, as you can in the UK, if you have a sim card from another country.

          1. Hope
            December 16, 2016

            There is a simple solution, make the trains driverless and stop their strikes by legislation. Other bodies are not allowed to strike where there is a national interest. This is effecting the economy.

            We saw the recent tragedy where the driver lost control and people lost their lives and another driver on the same route falling asleep. So the safety claim by the union is disingenuous.

      2. Richard1
        December 14, 2016

        There is no reason at all for either trains or telecom networks to be monopolies. British Rail was a state owned monopoly – its service was even worse than today’s – it was Southern Rail writ large across the whole country. Customers need choice and competition and unions need to be stripped of their immunity from the consequences of their blackmail, as every other institution, company, entity & person in the County is.

        1. acorn
          December 15, 2016

          So how did privatising the railways, introduce “choice and competition”. All you got were trains in different colours. The government had to regulate the fares to prevent super-normal profits being gouged out of customers, who have no other practical way of getting to work.

          It was interesting to read that you can’t fall over in a Southern carriage. The packing density of human consumers, would not be allowed for transporting live sheep or pigs!

          1. Richard1
            December 15, 2016

            I agree the privatisation model followed was sub-optimal. But a nationalised British Rail would surely be worse.

      3. Lifelogic
        December 14, 2016

        Osborne was clearly rather a sick joke as Chancellor he even claimed he was keeping his Inheritance tax promise and was repaying the debt!

      4. libertarian
        December 14, 2016


        I suggest you read a bit of history, theres nothing “natural” about the monopoly and you should be aware but obviously aren’t that your “fictional” free market was in fact what created, built and operated railways in the first place.

        Whilst not defending the UK mobile operators as they are bad , however you are wrong , try GiffGaff or Anywhere Sim if you want cross network “roaming” in the UK.

        One reason ( only one there are others) is that because of the fake news mobiles cause cancer rubbish its now very difficult to get planning permission to erect new masts.

        I agree we aren’t a world leader in 3G let alone 5G

        1. acorn
          December 16, 2016

          So how many sets of railway tracks would you have out of say London to Plymouth or Liverpool? That is where the natural monopoly exists and the “sunk” costs and land requirements. You would need 4 or 5 sets of tracks for competition, about the same width as a three lane motorway.

          The original railways were all government granted private monopolies, none of them made any money. Hence the government took them over at the start of WW1 till 1923. The many eventually became the “big four”, till 1948.

      5. acorn
        December 14, 2016

        Did you see this from the EU? Eurozone lenders have suspended their recently agreed debt-relief plan for Greece. The lenders are unhappy that the Greek government plans to spend €617m (£517m) on giving poor state pensioners a pre-Christmas bonus.

        The European Stability Mechanism, the body that helps [read kills] eurozone governments in trouble, said it had not been asked to agree the bonus. It said it would now scrutinise the proposed payment to the pensioners. Perhaps we Brits should send them our winter fuel payments?

      6. hefner
        December 14, 2016

        An interesting item in independent.co.uk dated 28/08/1993 “The story of a bad idea”. A rather long article. Mid-way through it there is an even more interesting reference to a minister in John Major’s Cabinet who was so very keen on the privatisation idea, one who today is not ashamed to write “I am relieved that Southern Rail does not serve my voters”.

        Reply Yes, I wrote the minority report of how to privatise the railways which was not adopted.

        1. Lifelogic
          December 15, 2016

          A minority report that was largely spot on. But in politics being right never seems to get you anywhere.

          Going along with the absurd and wrong headed fashions of the time seems to be way to advancement in politics. The EURO, the ERM, the way rail was privatised, the climate alarmism, the job destroying minimum wage agenda, the ever larger state agenda ……..

        2. hefner
          December 15, 2016

          In some quarters, it is said that this minority report would have made the situation “even worse” as it recommended a higher number of smaller regional companies. More parcellization, and likely more incompetent private managers.

    2. Horatio McSherry
      December 14, 2016


      I agree with the thrust of the point, but the problem is that it isn’t privatised – it’s corporatised (with the trains themselves running on nationalised tracks/systems). The train company is hand-picked by politicians and is answerable only to politicians – not to its customers. It is the very antithesis of privatised.

      The solution is to make the train companies responsible for the trains, tracks and systems and leave them open to competition. There’ll be some who fail and fall by the wayside (and give an opportunity for those who hate the idea to criticise) but in the end it will work out to everyone’s benefit; not only in travel, but in technology too.

  2. Lifelogic
    December 14, 2016

    Why does Osborne think that an intervention in Syria would have made things better? The other interventions were all terrible disasters, or has he not noticed?

    I assume he is trying to distract attention from his dire record as the tax borrow and piss down the drain chancellor, IHT ratter and pension and landlord mugger. Also the person who threatened the nation with a punishment budget if they dared to vote the right way. Just go away please.

    1. Richard1
      December 14, 2016

      It is impossible to know what would have happened in Syria had MPs not blocked Cameron’s proposed intervention in 2013. But it could hardly be worse than the current situation. I would have thought the most sensible course of action would have been to create and defend a haven enclave in Syria. This would have then be the place where refugees could have gone.

      1. Lifelogic
        December 14, 2016

        Well we certainly did not do anything very positive with out other half baked and incompetent interventions.

      2. Horatio McSherry
        December 14, 2016

        The problem was that the government’s plan was to join in a civil war by fighting against two sides and arm a third (whom everyone apart from the government could see were as wicked as the rest). Their only long term aim was to oust Assad – regime change – not the protection of Aleppo or its citizens.

        The public could see we were going to get ourselves involved in another Middle Eastern conflict with no “good guys”, that we couldn’t “win”, that no-one would thank us for involving ourselves in (in fact, quite the opposite), and in regime change that has turned out so disastrously wherever we have involved ourselves. Our politicians listened to that (just as they listened in the recent Brexit debate) and voted accordingly.

        We have to stop thinking it’s always about us and that everything’s always our fault. The Middle East is still staunchly tribal, and Western “solutions” that make sense to us don’t make sense to them.

      3. Hope
        December 14, 2016

        The West is to blame for Syria. Do not pretend that the UK did not intervene or correct to oust Assad. Osborne is trying to mitigate the disaster he helped create. Far fewer people would have died or the situation escalate if it wa not for the West interfering. What happened to the rebels Osborne’s govt was funding? Did they not turn into ISIS rather than his claim? He has made other rather ridiculous claims regarding leaving the EU, non have come to pass. His lies go ahead of him. It would be best if disappeared from Poitics like his friend, who we could not believe a word he said either. Osborne – No serious minded person wants to leave the EU, Yes we do!

      4. Mitchel
        December 14, 2016

        It could have been a whole lot worse with Saudi ‘s proxies in control which is what would eventually have happened with the removal of Assad.

    2. NA
      December 14, 2016

      Why does Osborne think that an intervention in Syria would have made things better? The other interventions were all terrible disasters, or has he not noticed?

      If we would have knocked out Assads defences as Kerry wanted to do so the regime toppled, the most dominant force would have overrun Damascus and seized power and at the time that force was ISIS.

    3. Ian Wragg
      December 14, 2016

      Osborne was one of the instigators who scrapped half of the armed forces whilst preening himself on doubling foreign aid.
      We can’t afford so much we are told buy we can pay £17billion to ensure 3rd world despots continue in the manner in which they are accustomed.
      Now we have Donald threatening to scrap the F35 plane and we have Carriers with no planes.
      A period of silence from the posh boys would be welcome. It’s not our problem that a culture which would annihilate us want to kill each other.
      etc ed

      1. Lifelogic
        December 15, 2016

        Foreign aid like the useless airport in St Helena

    4. Know-dice
      December 14, 2016

      Agreed, what was Osborne thinking…

      Without all out military action in Syria and a plan for peace with the agreement of the Russians any large scale intervention by the West would have extended the fighting.

      As it is small scale US and UK intervention supporting untrustworthy “rebels” did no good at all. We all know that rhetoric says that Assad is a nasty piece of work, but better the dictator you know rather than rebels that could have close relationships with IS etc.

    5. foggy
      December 14, 2016

      peter ford ex uk syria ambassador sounds on the ball

      1. rose
        December 14, 2016

        So did Matthew Parris.

        1. Lifelogic
          December 15, 2016

          That will be a first then!

          1. rose
            December 15, 2016

            He has been consistently right about asylum seekers, long before anyone else dared speak up.

        2. foggy
          December 15, 2016

          obviously rose
          He looks desperately unhappy at having to give his message
          but is the message correct or not

    6. Mitchel
      December 14, 2016

      Osborne is a fully paid up(and paid for) member of the neo-liberal-neo-con fanclub.

  3. Richard1
    December 14, 2016

    Whenever we hear calls for ‘investment’ in railways such as HS2, we should remember the huge limitation and liability which applies to rail & doesn’t apply eg to roads – rail can be and is held to ransom by militant unions looking to pick a fight with (Conservative) governments. I would like to see a new law banning strike action on any monopoly service with mandatory arbitration the means used to settle disputes. The situation on Southern rail is absurd. The rail unions are the last relics of the disasterous blackmailing militant unions of the 1970s and 80s, which Thatcher largely, but not completely, liberated us from.

    1. Lifelogic
      December 15, 2016

      Indeed and they cost lots more than cars, use more energy often, need huge subsidies, cannot take heavy items easily and do not go door to door (nor call off on route to pick up or drop off). Nor can you divert should your plans change – not easily anyway.

  4. 37/6
    December 14, 2016

    The RMT argues that the McNulty aims are to do away with guards altogether so the doors issue is a line in the sand. It requires a safety competency and therefore secures the grade. Otherwise McNulty wants something like 50% of train services to be single manned – this along with cuts to station staff as passenger numbers are soaring.

    Driver Only Operation has existed for decades but not on intercity type services nor long commuter trains. Since then equality laws have meant wheelchair access is required with ramps at each station – will the driver be required to get out of his cab to assist ? If not then assistance by whom ?

    Other issues come into play if the proviso that ‘some’ trains can run without staff (meaning many will run without staff):

    – loss of ability to clear the running line with brakes isolated on a trailing coach to prevent the risk of runaway vehicles (the guard can help with this duty)

    – loss of help with crowd control during out-of-course incidents such as severe delays or fault finding on failed trains (hundreds, perhaps a thousand of passengers on board – one expects there must be a limit on passenger numbers for DOO)

    – Driver distraction from contact with the public, sometimes unpleasant (drunk, argumentative… not the driver !)

    – no help in train evacuations

    – no-one to act as competent person to enable full speed movement after the isolation of AWS, DSD, TPWS, DVD (all in-cab safety systems prone to fault)

    – no-one taking over should the driver become incapacitated

    -no on-board revenue protection/ticket sales

    – no help and information

    There was a time when the guard could take the leading end of a propelling movement (reversing) to top-and-tail a train to expedite changes in routing but not anymore – a great loss.

    I dislike what is happening on Southern and this new found Aslef militancy (at variance with the general membership) but this is not just a local issue. The RMT indicates that it could become national.

    Ultimately it is about job protection – yes, safety comes a distant second – to Union hardliners a poke at the Tory Government (and so-called austerity) a bonus in third position.

    I hate what is being done to Southern passengers. It is very difficult to defend.

  5. Ex-expat Colin
    December 14, 2016

    I think this safety issue is very important. And its more than just doors. Should not leave a union to solely command and create a dispute like this. The safety assessment needs to be published so that we can see what considerations have been assessed. The what, why and how’s. Gov’t and regulators are really slack here.

    Perhaps companies might consider their location in London…again!

    I thank god I don’t have to use the system.

  6. Lifelogic
    December 14, 2016

    It is of course unreasonable that commuting has to be paid out of taxed income as it is clearly a necessary cost that needs to be paid in order to do the job. Especially with tax and NI at over 45% it is absurd that you cannot even deduct your costs of working.

    Up to say £10.000 off your gross salary just to get to and from work (and that it seems only if you are rather lucky and prepared to stand most of the way).

    MP’s needless to say get their travel costs paid by the taxpayer in general (claiming two places of employment). The commons bars are also subsidised to about £10,000 per MP and this does not seem to be taxes as a benefit in kind on MPs either.

    Meanwhile landlords (thank to Osborne) are now taxed on profits they have not even made.

    Private sector employees used to be generously allowed 15p per day in luncheon vouchers tax free, but needless to Osborne got rid of even this in 2011. Perhaps he had non noticed the huge subsidies for MPs bars, restaurants and now creches! Much more important to tax that 15p.

    Still we are all in it together as they say!

    1. Iain Gill
      December 15, 2016

      Indeed other stuff should be allowed against tax, not just essential work travel, but also nights away if you have to take a job far from home.

      Especially since the govt has changed the rules on umbrella employees.

      This would level the playing field with the consultancies and outsourcers who routinely contractually base their staff at home, and expense their travel and staying away on business (which is practise becomes most of the time). There is no reason the same tax treatment should not be available to others, especially those in lines of work where even supposedly “permanent” roles are mostly still short term engagements.

      The who tax treatment needed to encourage a mobile responsive workforce is not there. And all the perks are their for the outsourcers and especially those brining in foreign staff where many more tax perks are available.

      Indeed in other developed countries the equivalent of PAYE staff can deduct things like work related training from their tax on their tax return, again I see no reason at all why this is not allowed here.

      Seems the PAYE classes are just an easy target for fleecing money.

    2. CdBrux
      December 16, 2016

      Reductions in taxation for commuting to work costs? I would rather work towards a simplified taxation, not away from it as you propose!

  7. alan jutson
    December 14, 2016

    Does the so called guard inspect tickets on board as well to make sure all who are travelling have paid.

    if not, why not.

    given a train can carry hundreds of people at a time (thousands on a working day shift) what additional cost is it on a ticket to have one official person on board in the carrraiges should any form of emergency arise, including an illness to the driver.

    think the unions have a point.

    1. 37/6
      December 14, 2016

      Yes. They do sell and inspect tickets.

    2. Beecee
      December 14, 2016

      I think the sticking point is that if the guard does not turn up for work and a stand-by is not available then the Company wants the train to depart with just the driver and the Union wants the train to be cancelled.

      I understand from the media that the Union allows driver only trains on some other networks.

    3. JJE
      December 14, 2016

      I actually agree with this in that I like to have the guard on board. They do inspect tickets and assist passengers and generally help to keep things civilised. I would not want to lose them. And if they are there they may as well control the doors as they do on GWR services to Waterloo and Gatwick for example. That has never struck me as a problem that needs change.
      I don’t believe Southern when they say they don’t want to impact jobs. In fact in general I despise Southern as money grabbing and deceitful – I have commented previously on their dodgy practices in the pricing at their ticket machines to not offer the best value tickets.

    4. Roy Grainger
      December 14, 2016

      The Docklands Light Railway has been operating a commuter services for years with driverless trains, and the guard does inspect tickets all the time, ultimately that is the way forward for all rail travel. It is bizarre that the driverless car is being actively developed when driverless trains – much simpler to implement – have not been introduced yet.

  8. Original Richard
    December 14, 2016

    “It will take lighter trains, better brakes, and modern signals to increase the capacity of the commuter network.”

    It will also require driverless trains to take full advantage of such technical improvements.

    The irony is that trains need guards to patrol the train (not to open and close the doors) more than they need drivers.

    Tube trains finally did away with the guards many years ago and it is now time to also remove the drivers.

  9. Bert Young
    December 14, 2016

    Following the obituary notice of James prior yesterday , I picked up his book and re- read the section covering his role as Minister for Labour – the closing stages before he went to his Ireland post . The Conservative Party at that time had a huge majority under Margaret Thatcher and were determined to neutralise Union activity . Prior preferred a nibbling away approach to the problem as opposed to most of his Party who wanted to legislate them out of existence altogether .

    Looking at the scene today with the cosying up of Corbyn to the Unions and their undoubted increasing influence , I question whether the scene has moved on at all . Unions still dominate , the links to the centre of Politics are just the same , picketing and strikes are still around ; I wonder what Jim Prior would have made of it all and whether he should have adopted another harder approach . The public are fed up with Union imposition in their day to day lives and want to have more control . Messages are strong on both sides of the Atlantic that things have to change and a more forceful priority introduced .

    1. Lifelogic
      December 15, 2016

      He should have had a much harder approach, it would have been in the interests of the customers and indeed the workers too. You cannot allow damaging unions to control these valuable assets and bring them to a stand still at will. Customer should get compensation from the unions for the disruption. If they do not like the job tell them to get another one.

  10. m
    December 14, 2016

    £ 5,000 to get to work ..they must be joking . Why work down there at all ,it is scandalous? The prices are high enough anyway . There are lots of places I would like to see and visit down south now I am semi- retired , but is it worth getting a train for? all that hassle for such high prices. These people have control over the future prosperity of London and more and more businesses will go elsewhere to accommodate staff.

    1. fedupsoutherner
      December 14, 2016


      Yes, I cannot believe the prices down south either. I have just booked a ticket in Scotland and it was dirt cheap compared with down south. Ridiculous. A sixty mile journey here has just cost me £4.50 as I could use my over 60’s travel card. Not bad at all.

      1. Lifelogic
        December 15, 2016

        London to Birmingham single £85!

  11. hefner
    December 14, 2016

    Lifelogic, sorry but you talk (nonsense ed) Do a teeny weeny bit of research before writing and you might comprehend that the distinct ownership of trains and tracks is something created by various UK governments. Check the situation in other continental countries. It does not exist or it is far less parcellized than in the UK.

    O/T: the UK at the forefront … of a failing 4G mobile system.
    What are politicians doing? Sleeping on the job, or too busy doing additional jobs on the side to “complement” their MP salary?

  12. agricola
    December 14, 2016

    I would take a leaf out of Margaret Thatcher’s book, and as with the miners make sure supply exceeds demand.
    Set up a secret driver training school. There should be plenty of people aspiring to earn the £50.00 PA plus, reputed to be the level of salary available. At this remuneration they will come flocking ,ready trained, from Europe.
    At the first sign of union trouble, sack those not prepared to work and replace them. You might suffer a month of disruption but at the end you will have this element of the union movement firmly back in it’s box. Additionally make the trade unions financially responsible for the disruption compensation due to passengers. If they are daft enough to follow in the footsteps of Scargill so be it.
    Long term, trains could be fully automated, retaining drivers for emergency situations only. This would then be much like modern airliners which fly by myriad computers and a light input from the crew until the need for a high wind cross wind landing or a bird strike. These unions are waging war, take it to them.

  13. hefner
    December 14, 2016

    Another example of “reductio ad EUm” (Godwin’s Law) by Lifelogic.

  14. Bob
    December 14, 2016

    Mr Redwood – The received wisdom is that Brexit is being watered down to a Norway model of EU membership.

    Reply Sounds like error, not wisdom

    1. Lifelogic
      December 14, 2016

      To reply I hope you are right JR but I have no confidence in May or Hammond. Their decisions so far (on HS2, Hinkley, workers on boards, the greencrap subsidies, gender pay reporting and the continuation of Osborne’s bonkers fiscal agenda) have all been very big mistakes. As was Theresa May’s absurd lie that we had control of our borders (even in the EU) through Schengen,
      . She clearly thinks the electorate are very stupid indeed. This while presiding over the home office and failing to control even non EU immigration.

      Why should we have any confidence at all in these (ex?) remainers?

    2. Lifelogic
      December 14, 2016

      JR did however assure us that Cameron was a Eurosceptic when he turned out to be a dire Libdem.

      I tend to find I have even less confidence in T May and Hammond than I did in Cameron. Though Hammond surely cannot be quite as bad as Osborne was. So far he shows every sign of pushing even more of the same insanities alas.

    3. graham1946
      December 14, 2016

      No surprise. It was always going to be thus. This is what happens when ‘Remainers’ are PM and Chancellor. We are being drip fed the final solution they want, which is not really to leave at all and all the dither and delay and talk of ‘transition’ is designed to wear down the public into bored acquiescence or fear.

      Again the Tories have done their usual thing of ‘electing’ (is that what happened?) the wrong leader. Have done since Maggie Thatcher. Every one a loser.

      1. Lifelogic
        December 15, 2016


    4. Bob
      December 14, 2016

      “Reply Sounds like error, not wisdom”

      I agree Mr Redwood, it would be an error. The UK needs to be completely disentangled from the EU and free to plough it’s own furrow.

      If the banks want passporting rights, let them pay the fees themselves, why should taxpayers foot the bill?

      No more contributions to the EU budget needs to be one of our red lines, and I don’t see any justification for exit fees, a rebate perhaps, but no exit fees. £60 billion would go someway to paying for the repairs to Westminster Palace, HS2, long term care for the elderly, the NHS, public sector & state pensions, and the decaying state education system. Not to mention foreign aid.

    5. Bob
      December 14, 2016

      REVEALED: Britain will pay the EU from its FOREIGN AID BUDGET after Brexit, Rees-Mogg says: http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/743161/Britain-to-pay-EU-from-Foreign-Aid-Budget-after-Brexit

    6. Ed Mahony
      December 14, 2016

      ‘The received wisdom is that Brexit is being watered down to a Norway model of EU membership’

      – Could be the EU is heading towards reform (equalling medium Brexit for all the EU countries). Where we ditch free movement of peoples (and other important reforms).

      Why reform? Because over the last few months, Europe – not just the UK – has become more concerned by borders and open immigration. Plus Mrs Merkel has become more vulnerable on this.

      Chancellor Kohl was essentially responsible for the EU as we have it now. GREAT in many places. EXCEPT that it lacks flexibility and is overly ambitious in time scale. HOWEVER, unless it reforms, the EU will inevitably collapse (surely?)

      Lastly, complete nonsense we can’t trade successfully with outside world inside the EU. Germany does a great job exporting with rest of the world (and a much better job than Japan that is outside the EU).

      1. Ed Mahony
        December 14, 2016

        ‘The received wisdom is that Brexit is being watered down to a Norway model of EU membership’

        – If you examine the commentary from leading Brexiteers (e.g. Dan Hannan for Tories and Nigel Farage for UKIP, and others) they talked about us leaving the EU but adopting a Norway-style Brexit and / or no way we were leaving the Single Market (Hannan).
        Also, if you look at the ballot paper, it just said, do you want to leave the EU. It didn’t go into further details – the crux of which is ‘do you want to leave the Single Market or not.’
        Therefore, based on what leading Brexiteers argued for before the Referendum, every kind of Brexit is possible from hard to soft.
        But i think we – and all of Europe – are heading towards reform of the EU and medium Brexit, in particular, focusing on reform on free movement of people.

    7. Roy Grainger
      December 14, 2016

      It is striking though that when P.Hammond opines that more than two years will be needed to implement Brexit he is not slapped down with as much vigour as May’s Brexiters when they venture an opinion.

  15. Old Codger
    December 14, 2016

    Introduce driverless trains and let the guards concentrate on opening doors and collecting tickets.

    1. hefner
      December 14, 2016

      Nice idea, but do you know whether main train lines are equipped for ATO and ATC/ATP. If not, how long do you think it will take to install such systems, how much perturbation to the train traffic will this introduce, how much will it cost?
      In absence of an intelligent answer to those questions, I am afraid that people asking for driverless trains live on cloud cuckoo land.

  16. forthurst
    December 14, 2016

    “[Govia Thameslink] wishes the drivers to control the highly automated system of door closing and locking, as they do on other railways” such as Thameslink which is part of the same franchise. How can there be bargaining on the issue of safety; something is either safe or it is not, surely, so how much longer should this trial of strength whose main losers are commuters be allowed to continue before government accepts it’s primary role in creating this dog’s breakfast of a railway in the first place which therefore falls to them to sort out?

    1. Roy Grainger
      December 14, 2016

      Of course no-one believes it is a safety issue, just as no-one believed the Junior Doctor’s dispute was about patient safety.

  17. Mockbeggar
    December 14, 2016

    Thankfully, I don’t have to commute any more, but I do have to make trips to London from time to time for hospital appointments which are expensive for the hospital if I should fail to keep them and difficult for me to re-arrange at short notice.
    I suspect that quite apart from their desire to make use of automatic doors, the key reason why Southern Rail is to implement Driver Only Operation is to give the guard/conductor more time to sell tickets to passengers who have not been able to buy one because their station ticket office is closed and the ticket machine is either incomprehensible to use or out of order.
    It is the station staff whose jobs are at risk rather than guards/conductors.

  18. The PrangWizard
    December 14, 2016

    I gather Corbyn and his gang of revolutionaries along with his union agents and The Daily Mirror are calling for nationalization of the railways. This has clearly been their aim all along, to hurt Southern Rail as much as possible, weaken public resolve and then move on to something else – little by little they will make their revolution. Our naive leaders and some opinion formers who think being nice to everyone solves problems will sadly it seems continue their weak-kneed attitudes.

    Interestingly one of the justifications surrounds foreign ownership of rail operators – profits and cash flow are going abroad – they ask how does that benefit passengers and the country as a whole.

    Good question. The obsession of government, backed by city spivs and many commentators including our host with ‘inward investment’, that the selling off of our infrastructure and companies to foreign ownership is a universal good thing is coming back to bite them.

    I have observed many times that a few decades ago, at a time when we also did own our own large companies, we were told our overseas investments and their dividends were vitally important to our balance of payments and health as a nation.

    Why and when was this turned around to the present state we are in – vast quantities of cash and profits draining away because so many companies are foreign owned? That needs to be made up for no doubt by selling even more of our assets. Just look around – virtually all the big names are foreign.

    Does this make any sense? I’m no fan of Corbyn and Socialism, but I do want us to be able to be masters of our own destiny and if nationalization helps, so be it.

    When all our assets of any consequence are gone and we are pretty well there already, whose nation is it? The problem will not be solved just by leaving the EU. We need a change of view in our leaders.

  19. Antisthenes
    December 14, 2016

    Every cloud has silver a lining for someone eventually. All the dinosaur RMT union is doing is hastening the day that there will be even fewer jobs for their members. Automation is a much more rapid process these days. Driver less vehicles of all description are on there way and trains are going to be no exception. Train drivers jobs will go but passenger safety and train efficiency and performance will improve, costs will be cut and there will be no strike days. It is no good the RMT standing like Cnut attempting to keep back the tide of progress. Like him it will fail but expecting the left to understand that is also a fail position.

  20. English Pensioner
    December 14, 2016

    Ronald Reagan sacked all the air traffic controllers who believed that they were untouchable. I would suggest that Air Traffic Control is a far more skilled job than driving a train.
    I believe all the striking train drivers should be fired.
    How long does it really take someone to learn to drive a train? I’d suggest it is far easier than driving a bus or a HGV, you don’t have to steer a train, you don’t have to watch out for other traffic or pedestrians, just start and stop it and obey the signals. Surely this is demonstrated by the fact that you can have driverless trains, but so far, no-one has managed to build a truly safe driverless car simply because there are two many variables.

  21. Prigger
    December 14, 2016

    The Right Honourable Mr Ben Bradshaw Labour MP for Exeter is reported on Sky News online today with a verifying video of a Parliament interaction to those of us in disbelief that any serving MP would say it, that Russian hackers ‘probably swayed Brexit vote’.
    There’s moaning and…………..

  22. fedupsoutherner
    December 14, 2016

    For the last 6 months every time I have flown down to Gatwick to visit my sick and elderly mother who lives in Worthing I have been caught up in this rail strike. I always buy a ticket in advance because the station is so packed at Gatwick and I cannot fathom out how to operate the machines but this has proved to be disastrous as I have lost out on the ticket because of trains not running at the last minute and having to ask people to come and pick me up and then paying them for the trouble. My brother lives in London and had to cancel his journey last Saturday leaving my mother without a visitor yet again at the weekend. This is totally unacceptable. God knows what foreigners think when they arrive in this confused country which is rapidly becoming like a third world country.

  23. Peter Davies
    December 14, 2016

    I know of people who have lost their jobs because of southern. Someone needs to get a grip and work out what is going in. This franchise stands out for all the wrong reasons

  24. Heads or tails
    December 14, 2016

    The rail managements do not have the luxury of knowing-continuance of their contracts. They cannot effectively guarantee that Guards will if need be…, re-trained . They may wish they could genuinely promise they will always have a job as they WORK and, they are… family.
    Insecurity can lead to innovation, a zest for living with “danger”,- stimulating progress . Or a strike, losing a company all it would have gained by its intended progressive actions and causing billions of pounds worth of damage to everyone outside their necessarily tunnelled or focused role.
    I contend that in this see-saw-dispute of management-workers they have damaged themselves and everyone else.
    But in the final analysis, the buck has to stop with management. How could they have not thought that , eventually, stiff resistance to their proposals would in all probability have led to a devastating strike? They gambled did’t they?!

  25. Pud
    December 14, 2016

    I’d be more willing to believe the rail unions were genuinely interested in safety rather than using it as an excuse to protect jobs if they didn’t try to stop management disciplining members over safety issues. Two examples where the unions complained –
    a) Tube driver reduced to platform duties for a year (still on his driver’s pay) for passing several red signals
    b) Driver failed alcohol breath test, union didn’t want him sacked

  26. Iain Gill
    December 14, 2016

    As someone on the right of the political spectrum I am going to say some things you wouldn’t expect.
    I agree with the unions that we should keep guards on the trains. For what its worth I also think all stations should have old fashioned station masters responsible for that station. I also think public parks should have old fashioned park keepers.
    I’ve lived near a few stations, left unmanned much of the time, complete pain in the bum for passengers when there are no staff there to help. Its laughable that in London all underground stations are manned, and yet many national rail stations are not, such different approaches from two similar public services.
    The reliance on CCTV, and vast sums spent on repairs after vandalism, are examples of the ways the books are cooked. I am pretty sure if you took into account the reduction in vandalism, and so on, that station masters and guards would pay for themselves.

  27. stred
    December 14, 2016

    Incredibly, the train operator does not lose money caused by the strike. The government pays. There is no incentive to come to an agreement. The unions are hard left and would need an excuse to disrupt anyway, but why give them a reason? The guards are paid the same whether they operate the doors or not. Long and full commuter trains are difficult to observe anyway and surely it would be sensible for the driver AND the guard or inspector/helper/ whatever to communicate with an intercom and make sure that the train is safe. At £5k pa for commuters, they surely deserve a safe and well- managed service. This mess may stem from bad management at DafT as well as the company.

  28. Kingdom Come
    December 14, 2016

    In my late parents’ day, before the war, the categories of people in their world were Railwaymen, coalminers, married women ( housewives) , spinsters ( a bit of a joke, sometimes very nasty, by today’s standards ), women who went into “service”, skivvying living-in in important peoples’ houses, not slavery, not exactly ( also with sometimes nasty jokes )
    Railwaymen were seen as snobby by the rest . The working class had its own tiers of class within its class, so I learned.
    Historically, governments and the owner-class have attacked the , again historically, the middle class version of the working class. As Vladimir Lenin would have no doubt said, personally, in an honest moment with his comrades,- “revolutions are caused not by attacking the working class and peasants but when the middle class becomes fearful of its own security. ”
    No revolution here, just billions upon billions of lost production, disruption covering large tracts of our Kingdom with our PM Theresa May today in Parliament blaming it all on the Trades union representing the historic middle class.
    Mrs May is not right for PM
    Mrs May does not have the feel for our Kingdom ( United )

  29. British Spy
    December 14, 2016

    If you JR are not going to be Prime Minister then it should be Bob Stewart Member of Parliament for Beckenham or better, both of you at the very top.

    You are both very diplomatic in Parliamentary exchanges and in interviews on TV. But I sense an urgency in both your expressed opinions. Putting it cleverly so readers can witness by obvious wisdom, it is not your opinions but the love of Country one hears machine-gunning through them. Patriotism does not pay the rent but it keeps the landlord at bay.

  30. Newmania
    December 14, 2016

    The effort to cause maximum disruption has been quite malicious, the position is absolutely intolerable and the blame lies 100% with the RMT and Aslef
    The nominal Casus belli (the dear things are concerned for my safety) is , of course cobblers.This all goes back to the McKinnon report which made various reasonable recommendations to drag rail into the new century. One of them was to ditch the Guard . The Guard was an anachronisms after the stage coach finished !!!
    What is at stake now is whether we are going to have the tube drivers/ highway or a managed business operating on behalf of taxpayers and users Management must be allowed to manage.
    Still at least you get the odd laugh, driving to work today I heard that in Scotland they have compromised , the train driver opens the door and guard closes it …. Quite magnificent …..

  31. ian
    December 14, 2016

    Management & gov should of had a agreement with the union before ordering the trains, they have failed the people who use that line because they thought they could just bulldoze though it like on other railway lines, of cos the unions did not want train guard going on other lines because the unions want good quality jobs with good rates of pay and i take there view good quality jobs is better than letting train companies earn more profits out of the line and kill more good jobs for the people of this country, all that happening hear is the gov is trying to make private companies more profits out of the line which dose not help the people using the line or workers on the line, the train that have been order for this should be sold off to another train line who want driver only trains to make more profits and let the line get back to running as they were, the government should not be involved in going round trying to make companies more profits by getting rid of people jobs and we all know that drive a less trains are next for more profits and no jobs with government helping.

  32. ian
    December 14, 2016

    I have full faith in Mr John Redwood and his team to push the country out of the EU in the next 2 years and if dose not happen the people will finish the job at the next election.

  33. mike fowle
    December 14, 2016

    I gather from Tim Worstall’s blog that it is not a franchise but a management contract – Govia are paid a fixed sum and the revenue (and the compensation) is paid to and by the government.

  34. Bryan Harris
    December 14, 2016

    That’s a bit hopeful John – expecting the unions to cooperate with a company and that company to be sensible.

    It really is time that the whole subject of union labour was changed to something sensible. Too many times our country has been ravaged by unnecessary strikes.

    Why on earth do we still tolerate union barons flexing their political power, just because they can. Mostly it is about some political point scoring or intimidation. We only have this problem because the labour party are supported by the unions, and IMVHO it is time to take the politics out of the unions.

    In a rational world the way that disputes were managed would have evolved where all 3 components compliment each other (Unions/Company/People). There would be a legally enforcible contract between the union and each company they had members at.

    The contract could stipulate any number of things to ease the rift and tension we see today, but fundamentally it needs to be about getting real agreement more easily so it doesn’t get to a stoppage.
    There would be added responsibility on all sides. Company management would provide a framework for rewarding employees or making changes, and the unions would monitor.
    On the unions side, they would be obliged to ensure the company suffered no excess damage due to union actions in providing their product, be it train journeys, apples or papers filed.

    Simply having the unions have this power to strike with no responsibility behind it means we will continue to suffer unnecessary strikes.

  35. Tinkerbell
    December 14, 2016

    So if a government allows- promotes the concentration of people and transport then any glitch costs millions..the economics of scale. Gosh!

    Mrs May in Parliament had a look of glee and triumphalism when she declared with guttural but rising tone the fault was with the railway workers’ union. Perhaps now coming to a conclusion on the cause, rightly or wrongly, she can repeat her revving vrooming of her voice box and goVERRRRN…Get it fixed!!!
    People are wrong to call her a very little girl. No she’s not! She is 5 foot 6 inches tall and just over 10 stones in weight and it is said no-one can get round her.

  36. Cluck
    December 14, 2016

    Living in the North and arguably leading a sheltered life may be the reason I do not fully understand the £5000 figure for a rail season ticket. Internet research tell me this is the annual fee for rail travel between Deal or Dover to London. By road this would take two hours. So far so good? Mmmm.

    Why is anyone apart from an MP daily and regularly travelling to and fro to work from Deal to London and back?? What work are they doing? What salary are they getting? What family life have they got? What life have they got a all?

    So this nonsense, this stupidity is what Gideon wants for the North in Northern Powerhouses? Just keep such idiocy south of Watford thanks and no thanks!
    It is a wonder people in the south of England vote for anyone at all.Why should you? You appear to live the life of a fee-paying battery hen.

  37. zooOOOOMMMM!!!
    December 14, 2016

    According to the RMT website, up to 400 Guards COULD lose their jobs.

    So, Mrs May is going to let millions if not billions of production lost so she can say Na-nana-naa-nah to the RMT and the Labour Party.

    Look, now the RAF is not taking out Syrian oil truckers accompanied by their kids to the seaside refineries and tanker facilities,- she can divert the cost of fighter plane missiles, £100,000 per missile given accompanying paperwork, landing and mechanical repair facilities, to the £1,000,000 required to pay all the salaries of the 400 Guards per year.
    10 missiles could cover the cost. Alternatively, tell the RAF pilots to fire their cannons instead of firing missiles and not only can the Guards go on being employed but we can use the money saved to buy our soldiers medieval coats of armour instead of regular body armour. Saving a a mega piggy bank of pennies!!
    If Mrs May were a true conservative she would have thought of that.
    Mrs May lacks proportional response in everything she thinks about. She was very sparing in thinking of responses to Rotherham however so she is not totally incompetent and petty.

  38. fedupsoutherner
    December 14, 2016

    Oh, joy of joys. We now have BA workers voting in favour of strikes. How bad can it get? The unions are gradually bringing this country to a standstill. What’s new? Always the same companies with the biggest unions causing trouble for everyone else. So now we have the railways, BA, Argos drivers and the Post Office workers all striking. What a happy Christmas it will be for some – not!! They should all think themselves lucky that they have well paid jobs compared with some of the population.

  39. John
    December 14, 2016

    Thank fully I work from home a lot now and no long pay the £3,800 season ticket. My service was good but increased above inflation every year. Southern Rail have a stop at my Station but was rarely used as they were mostly cancelled long before this recent business in the news. Don’t think those on the platform for that service could have held their jobs for long.

    The more they disrupt the more we want driverless trains and a completely automated system.

  40. John
    December 14, 2016

    And on the subject of railways, now we are exiting the EU project should we now not re visit HS2?

    This is part of the grand EU project to see high speed rail across the EU. Do we now not have other priorities such as greater connectivity from the Midlands to the North. Don’t we or wouldn’t we want now, to invest in infrastructure for fishing harbours, boat building and servicing, airport capacity in the North West, roads to transport the increased goods we will export?

  41. More than angry
    December 14, 2016

    Homelessness was spoken of in Parliament today. As one who was employed in a special position, by accident, in a Labour Authority years ago, I saw what the Authority did in receiving a large amount of money from a Tory government. Specific instruction/guidance as to creating emergency accommodation for the homeless was given.

    The Authority were as if resentful…as if a mardy child were looking a gift horse in the mouth. Even the faces of all political persons and officers were snarly. They wasted the money largely by neglect but it was a deliberate “neglect”, ticking the appropriate boxes, but wasted and misapplied it. The Social Services were nastily, yes very nastily disposed not to assist when they saw harm perpetrated by their sister department that of Housing.

    Central Government should find some other way..heaven knows how of helping the homeless. Gifting Local Authorities or their pet creations which look as if not controlled by them is most certainly a wholly great waste of time and money.
    Homeless persons then, who also witnessed the fiasco would probably vomit seeing today’s Labour MPs grandstanding and virtue signalling. Such tears in their eyes and frogs in their throats. Disregard their play-acting.Nominate them by all means for an Oscar, oh they’re good! Government should not give them or their councils or their associated organisations which flit staff one to the other one penny piece. Nothing!

  42. norman
    December 14, 2016

    Re Syria, and with due trepidation towards the complexities and depths of suffering caused,could someone explain what mandate we might have had to intervene in a sovereign state, against the existing legitimate government? Did Assad lob bombs or try to invade other countries, as Sadam did? Did he organize terrorism, in the way that certain others in the region are known to have done, possibly Gaddafi?
    What good would it have done to side with the so-called rebels, who are divided even among themselves, and can be just as nasty. Though I wouldn’t trust them, the Russians appear to have a legitimate interest, given their strategic interests and alliances in the Region. I cannot see that such considerations would have legitimized Western intervention in Syria. How much of this desire to intervene was on the back of the so-called Arab Spring – a flawed concept if ever there was one! And how much of it was the pulling of strings by the West’s Arab allies? What influence did the Muslim Brotherhood exert in Washington? Quite substantial, if I understand correctly. HINDSIGHT ANSWER: even-handed diplomacy by the West, with maximum facilitation of help for displaced persons in neighbouring countries – funded and organised locally? Or am I being naive?

  43. Christopher Hudson
    December 14, 2016

    When Theresa May set out who the Brexit Ministers would be I wondered at the time whether David Davis would be suitable at the time describing him as dusty and academic. Negotiations haven’t yet started and he’s ceding ground quicker than the French Armies.

  44. A different Simon
    December 14, 2016

    I have extensive experience of both British Rail and South West Trains .

    I wish to express my gratitude to South West Trains staff for the much improved service I received which made commuting to work bearable .

    The professionalism of the station staff is in complete contrast with British Rail where it was all too obvious that The State was the employer of last resort .

    Unfortunately I can’t praise Virgin Trains who cut back customer service too far and some of the other operators .

  45. rose
    December 14, 2016

    I prefer to have a guard on the train – not a train manager or manageress – and it looks as if the company want to move to no guards at some point in the future. So no-one is losing pay or jobs at the moment but what about later?

    Management all over the country has removed people in attendance in order to save money. It doesn’t make for a civilized country.

  46. Alan Hill
    December 15, 2016

    At some stage Southern Commuters are going to exact a revenge on ASLEF and RMT. I don’t know what form this will take but it’s only a matter of time……..unless this nonsense stops.

  47. James Gardiner
    December 15, 2016

    Nowadays they really need a 2nd or 3rd person who is 100% devoted to security. Several railways in europe now have that. So the dispute seems somewhat irrelevant. As for doors, the travellers have happily opened and closed them ourselves for years. In France the customer still does.

  48. John B
    December 16, 2016

    It is the 21st Century. Aeroplanes have automated landing capability and presumably take off too. Space craft use automation to put them in orbit and maintain it.

    Trains at airports, theme-parks run driverless; driverless cars have been notionally possible for two decades but lacking the infrastructure, modern electronics and GPS make them a reality if the will is there.

    Even bombs and missiles can guide themselves to their target without a Human ‘driving’ them.

    Why do railway trains need drivers or guards?


    Trains crash now (too frequently) and nearly always because of Human error.

    Automated trains with proximity detectors, computer co-ordinated location and speed control would solve the issue of train separation.

    The problem with the railways is they are approached as if it were 1816 not 2016.

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