back to article Sick of Southern Rail? There's a crowdfunding site for that

Frustrated Southern Rail passengers – like there’s any other kind these days – have launched a crowdfunding page to pay for a judicial review against the UK Department for Transport (DfT) over its handling of the franchise. The Association of British Commuters (ABC) is “seeking legal advice” from Devonshires Solicitors LLP and …

Anonymous Coward

Good luck to them

I hated commuting by train in the 90s for these reasons... a crap and expensive service. It's only got worse.

It didn't help that I worked abroad for a while and was paying, 10% or less, of the UK price and I always got a seat...... arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Good luck to them

And it is still the same, fast, reliable and on time (at least in France).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Good luck to them

Unfortunately the SNCF is a debt crater of epic proportions.

Overfilling depends. Try commuting across the country border in the morning. It's enough to sign up for terrorism then and there.

There are also regular strikes in order to upgrade the perks one would imagine. People are a bit fed up with these, so conductors are risking life & limb when venturing forth to control tickets at those particular times.

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Re: Good luck to them

the SNCF is a debt crater of epic proportions

Which is one of the reasons that the "rail replacement bus service" is a timetabled daily feature of many of the rural routes. Away from big population centres and TGV lines, French railways can be shockingly bad.

And, given, that we're still stuck up here with the "nodding donkey" Pacer trains for most of our local journeys, I'm not overly sympathetic to the plight of Southern commuters whose impaired service is considerably better than most of us can expect.

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Re: Good luck to them

Part of the reason why you get cheaper & better rail service in Germany & France is that British commuters are subsidising it with the franchises that SCNF & BundesBahn own via Keolis and Arriva

Funny how it's OK for the French, Dutch & German government owned companies to run UK franchises, but not our own government.

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Re: subsidies

French public transports are also massively funded by the state and/or the regions where they operate, not sure the income from the franchises is that significant. And I wouldn't call the French rail service much better than the British.

Besides, doesn't Sadiq Khan plan to run TfL franchises abroad to subsidize his fare freezes?

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Drivers

Southern had introduced an emergency timetable in July, temporarily suspending 341 services to cope with the shortfall in driver numbers - it claimed drivers were calling in sick, a point disputed by union bosses.

It's not the drivers calling in sick, it's the conductors. A point driven home months back when a train I was waiting for turned up at the station and sat there with it's doors shut. After several minutes the driver stepped out and proceeded to turn the air very blue indeed about his lying, work shy, good for nothing, lazy, feckless and above all absent colleagues as he walked the platform to t'other end so he could take the train back to the depot.

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Re: Drivers

But main reason for shortage of staff is that Southern don't employ enough people. They only employ 80% of the required numbers, relying on the goodwill of staff to cover the rest via overtime etc. After one of the previous strikes they banned anyone who had been on strike from doing overtime (along with several other things), which meant they couldn't run the trains. This caused more bad will and even though I believe they have now lifted the ban there isn't the inclination to "help out" by covering any more.

The actual sickness levels which have been reported are only minimally different now to just before this all kicked off.

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Re: Drivers

as he walked the platform to t'other end so he could take the train back to the depot.

Doesn't this somewhat undermine the Southern plan to remove conductors from trains?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Drivers

"Doesn't this somewhat undermine the Southern plan to remove conductors from trains?"

No this underpins it. He had to give up because he isn't allowed to run the train without one.

It's not an common thing to actually run trans in the rest of the country without one and the argument of the conductor having a better view is a little lame, the driver gets off backside, presses button to close. Doors ether close or don't, driver gets back in and pulls off.

It's not like the old days when you had to physically check the doors are shut.

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The spineless government

Should sort this shit out ASAP.

We now have "ministers" who won't take responsibility for anything and are frightened of business.

I'm 50 on Thursday and have never seen this country in such a sorry state. If I didn't have a 13 year old at school and a wife with an established business I would be off elsewhere.

In Aberdeen we have Abellio Scotrail and it's a disaster. According to staff the previous franchisee (First) was far better than the new one and their ethos is that it makes more money cancelling a train than running it.

Again, government should make this impossible in the franchising agreements.

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Re: The spineless government

Having said that, despite a commuter, the Borders Railways service is reliable, clean and very much better to ride than a commute into Edinburgh. Just to say that there are some decent services (helps that this railway is new - or rather renewed)

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Re: The spineless government

Untill this afternoon when all Borders trains are cancelled (again)

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Re: The spineless government

> The spineless government

> Should sort this shit out ASAP.

The thing is, that's actually what's happening. The DfT wants rid of the guards, knew they were going to have a fight with the unions and has specifically awarded the current GTR franchise (Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express are all the same company) to have that fight once and for all. Getting rid of the guards means it's cheaper to run the services, and they're less likely to be disrupted by striking / ill / not-willing-to-work-their-days-off staff. Next step is the driver (who won't be driving the new trains through the centre of London anyway, there's a computer for that).

This isn't a fight between Southern and the unions, it's a fight between the Government and the unions.

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C*nts

they're on strike again 07 & 08 September. shouldn't be allowed IMHO

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Anonymous Coward

Re: C*nts

That's a bit extreme. As a Southern commuter I can understand why the guards are striking: it's their last chance. Once they give the right to press the door button to the driver they relinquish power to stop trains running by being late, sick, stuck on an incoming train or by going on strike.Their jobs are "relatively" safe (safer than many IT jobs) being a "good" to have for the railway company as they can check tickets and assist passengers, but if they can't be there for any of the above mentioned reasons it ceases to be a reason to cancel the train and leaving hundreds of passengers like me to find another way home. As such I am really looking forward to the day when the driver takes control of the doors.

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Anonymous Coward

Privatise the railways ?

Just a thought ?

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Re: Privatise the railways ?

Err... they ARE privatised. That'[s the problem. Renationalisation, so that service takes precedence over profit, is the answer.

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Re: Privatise the railways ?

Renationalisation wouldn't work in the long term because it would just become a political football once more. The railways would soon be deliberately underfunded, and undermined in the press, to set the scene for privatisation -- exactly like last time, and just as is happening to the NHS now.

The government looked into selling off Network Rail once more last year (having completely forgotten the privatised disaster which was Railtrack), but were advised against it and for the moment seem to have accepted that advice (although a full response is due later this year). Unless there's a long-term consensus in Westminster it's always going to be a problem, and the passengers are the ones who are always going to be suffering the most from political short-sightedness and blind adherence to ideology (from whichever side).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Privatise the railways ?

Renationalisation, so that service takes precedence over profit, is the answer.

Says someone with rose tinted glasses.

Trains were shit,smelly and extremely unreliable.

The issue isn't who runs them, but how they are run.

Tories will run them on a bare minimum

Labour will over-staff them and be at the whim of the Unions.

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sack em all

Can you just sack the strikers?

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Meh

Re: sack em all

Dismissing a large number of your safety critical staff would be the start of your problems, not the end. You'd have to train new Guards with almost no one to do that training, while running no services due to the chronic lack of guards you've just created.

To answer your question (AIUI and IANAL) yes you can providing you dismiss ALL striking workers and don't cherry pick BUT it is a very high stakes gamble and you'd have to be pretty damned sure you don't blink in that game of poker with the unions.

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Pirate

Devonshires Solicitors

Wonder how many of the people chipping in £5 work for the solicitors who will get all the work?

Sounds like a great way to increase business.

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Anonymous Coward

Are Energy Firms any different? Nearly all are taking the piss.

Cooperative Energy introduced a new billing system in March 2015, it hasn't ever worked. Call wait times are still as bad today as then, still tonnes of tweets saying their systems don't work 18 months later.

You take the matter to the highest level within Ofgem, Ofgem stalll you at every possible stage, to prevent escalation of the complaint, "bat you away" at every stage.

Turns out Ofgem don't regulate the roll out of new billing systems, CRMs, you have to wonder what the fcuk they do regulate, given an Energy Company is basically a web portal, CRM+billing add-on in 2016.

These regulators need a complete overall, too many ex-Energy/(ex-BT in relation to ofcom) employees running the shop, covering up the complete lack of Customer Service, deciding the lax enforcement policies.

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Anonymous Coward

Having been involved in trying to sort this mess out since last december, let me be the first to tell you nothing will change. There are too many people creaming millions out of the southern deal.

If anything other franchise will be converted to run like southern over the next few years.

Keep an eye on the SouthEastern franchise - a group of commutters are looking into taking it over and they are getting further along than you might think

Pro-Bono Railway Experience has been falling over itself to offer help - an application is with the DFT currently.

Anon - cause the unions and current franchise lot are actively trying to disrupt any change for the better

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Meh

Mate of mine has an IT job with Southern Rail - he is employed to go around the main office all day and close any optical drive bay trays that he finds open.

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You mean the cup-holders..?

You mean the cup-holders..?

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He's called the CEO I believe.

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they aren't conductors, they're guards and they have well (legally?) defined responsibilities.

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Political Slant

It's the current right-wing economic orthodoxy at work.

The assumption is that the private sector will always be more efficient than any public agency, so they take over formerly public services, and run them into the ground, because as a life time working in the private sector has taught me, big business is just as stupid and wasteful as the government, they just have more money.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Silver badge

Re: Political Slant

Utter BS. It's the unions. Tumors on society, always trying to devour the host. So save your 'right-wing' slurs, lefty.

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Re: Political Slant

>The assumption is that the private sector will always be more efficient than any public agency

There is a confusion, which may be deliberate between efficiency of operation and efficiency of capital.

I can run a service into the ground, which may grant me capital efficiencies and senior management bonuses but that doesn't mean the operation of the service is efficient - I may just be able to sidestep the downsides of inefficiencies because customers have no alternatives in the short-term. I may be piling up the costs through massive inefficiencies, but deferring them. Or I may simply not both depreciating assets properly, leaving that problem for other people (perhaps the taxman) to fund after I'm gone.

Efficient service operation usually involves higher costs - regular maintenance, greater redundancy, replacement of functional stock which has manual doors, with new stock with automatic doors, enabling trains to leave on time, enabling better scheduling, reducing staff requirements, etc.

The upshot is, you can't really run any company by just looking at the numbers. You have to love the industry and the company and make balanced choices which may not be the most lucrative for yourself or make you look like the most efficient manager. This goes for public and private sectors.

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Re: Political Slant

@ Big John

Oh well, great problem solved then. The railways are bad because of the Unions.

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Re: Political Slant

"Utter BS. It's the unions. Tumors on society, always trying to devour the host. So save your 'right-wing' slurs, lefty."

Oh the irony of calling unions "Tumors on society" when you're quite obviously a Tory.

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Re: Political Slant

> Tumors on society

I thought there was supposed to be "no such thing as society" ... ?

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Re: Political Slant

The unions are the only protection some people have against being treated like Sports Direct zero-hour victims, so think again.

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Re: Political Slant

And any PLC has a legal duty to the shareholders to return as much profit as possible to the shareholders. The CEO could be jailed in extreme circumstances for not doing so. Which is why there is no investment & services are run into the ground despite ever-rising ticket prices.

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WTF?

Re: Political Slant

And any PLC has a legal duty to the shareholders to return as much profit as possible to the shareholders. The CEO could be jailed in extreme circumstances for not doing so.

Citation please.

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Re: Political Slant - @Mark Dempster

"And any PLC has a legal duty to the shareholders to return as much profit as possible to the shareholders. The CEO could be jailed in extreme circumstances for not doing so."

This is patently untrue. Completely false. Utterly bollocks.

Chapter 2 of the 2006 Companies Act lays out EXACTLY what legal duties Directors have. There are 7 of them. Not one of them, not ONE is "to return as much profit as possible to the shareholders." Actually they have a duty to promote the success of the company, a duty to exercise independent judgement and a duty exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence.

A director behaving as you suggest would simply be an asset stripper, extracting value from the company as they slowly strangled the life out of it. Maintaining good staff and customer relations by not absolutely shitting on them - that's promoting the success of the company. Telling a consultant to fuck off with their idea to make an extra 10% profit by making the product 15% shoddier, that's exercising independent judgement. Refusing shareholder demands to have a dividend right now in favour of investing money into R&D in order to have the company thrive in the future, well that would strike me as reasonable care in the discharge of their duties.

In Southern's case not pissing off all their commuters to the extent that politicians are roused to take action would probably be wise.

The Companies Act 2006 - http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/46/pdfs/ukpga_20060046_en.pdf

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I work for a railroad

In the US actually. And in freight to boot. But in times of terrific business, the carrier will blame us for six months or so for there not being enough of us, and then proceed to hire. If the trains are crowded there need to be more trains, and more of all crafts hired to run them. Simple math. As for on time performance...well service design is not my specialty.

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Re: I work for a railroad

> If the trains are crowded there need to be more trains

This works in parts of the world where there are three trains a day. In the commuter belt of London, the only way of getting more trains in is to build more tracks. And that involves demolishing expensive bits of real estate. Then, once you've got the trains into London, you need to build bigger stations to handle them, more really expensive bits of land needed. And then, all these people need to get around, so that means more busses or more tube lines, which means more roads and/or tunnels, and that'll be even more expensive.

Double decker trains won't work (the Victorians didn't think of them, so they'll be convertibles after the first bridge they go under). Longer trains won't work, they're already as long as the platforms.

Want more capacity? It's going to be eye-watering sums of money, which is really difficult to justify when the rest of the country is still bouncing along in two carriage freight wagons with bus doors added.

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Vic

Re: I work for a railroad

Longer trains won't work, they're already as long as the platforms.

You could double-stop a longer train and load/unload it in two goes.

There's limited extra capacity in that, though; it's only a stop-gap solution.

Vic.

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Unhappy

Re: I work for a railroad

You'd need to make sure the train involved had SDO (Selective door opening).

I can think of a myriad of problems in implementing this but the biggest problem would be more than doubling the "Dwell" time in the station (the time the train is at the station loading/unloading fleshsacks rather than travelling at line speed to the next station). One of the main reasons double decker trains aren't as viable as some people like to think is because they increase the station dwell time substantially which gives a substantial reduction in the capacity of that line.

Another easy spotted problem with double stopping trains is the bit of the train not in the platform may be fouling (blocking) a junction just outside the station which further reduces the route capacity. Indeed it could be fouling a Level crossing leading to exceptionally unhappy road users if the crossing is closed for 5 minutes at a time 10 times per hour!

When you're trying to push 10+ trains per hour along a commuter line every minute counts which is why Dwell time is important.

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Anonymous Coward

The Union makes us strong

Up the workers!

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For any brainwashed neoliberals out there that believe 'private sector is always best' perhaps you'd like to explain why Railtrack was such a success.... we could always bring them back, sack the engineers and replace them with retail managers from pub chains and see how many commuters we can kill. Of course profits would be up a bit for the first few years so I guess that would be ok ?

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Vic

For any brainwashed neoliberals out there that believe 'private sector is always best'

The private sector does OK as long as the correct metrics and incentives are put in place.

In recent years, it seems that making short-term profit is the only measure of a company's success - and that's why they all do it. That invariably leads to long-term losses, but they don't care.

Part of an incentive package should be the penalties for not doing the job. If a company can make big money out of running a service into the ground, then those penalties were clearly not strong enough. Bonuses should be tied to the long-term health of the business.

But the people who need to be convinced of this are the ones making out like bandits by things remaining as they are...

Vic.

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Anonymous Coward

Rail Unions

In a small way, I can sympathise with the unions: They're looking out for the jobs of their members. Southern have said they want to replace guards/conductors[1] with train managers so the unions want to make sure their members keep their jobs. (Southern say no-one would be made redundant)

My sympathies end when you realise that Southern are one of the last remaining train operators with guards/conductors.

The rail unions next battleground, however, will be the underground. Underground trains are becoming more and more automatic[2] and TFL are already thinking of driverless underground trains for the future.

[1] I'll let some better informed than I explain the difference between a guard and a conductor.

[2] The DLR is the obvious one. The less obvious one is the Victoria line. The driver opens & closes the doors, and presses "Go". That's it! TFL are looking to expand this to other lines as they upgrade stock & signalling.

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Re: Rail Unions

> My sympathies end when you realise that Southern are one of the last remaining train operators with guards/conductors.

Along with at least (possibly more):

Abellio Greater Anglia

Arriva Wales

Cross Country

East Midlands Trains

Grand Central

Great Northern

Hull Trains

London Midland

Merseyrail

Northern

Virgin East Coast

Virgin West Coast

Scotrail

South West Trains

Thameslink

Transpennine Express

Actually there's still a few companies with guards on them, not just Southern.

> The less obvious one is the Victoria line. The driver opens & closes the doors, and presses "Go". That's it!

Same with the Central, Northern and Jubile lines

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Re: Rail Unions

For Trade Unions read Mafia, UK style.

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