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.