It reached a peak last night of 3,000 people reading it in an hour - that's over 30,000 now since Friday. This is gratifying but also, if I'm honest, a little frightening.
What I've done is to write an open letter to the chief executive of Southern's operating company, GTR. You can read it on the blog of the New Weather Institute.
The second thing to say is that I've had the most extraordinary set of replies, including many from Southern staff. Here are parts of three of them and you will see what I mean when I talk about 'mystery':
This is from a crew member: “Trains are being cancelled at an alarming rate despite train crew (driver and guard) being in place and booked to work the trains. This is happening dozens of times per day! I know because it has happened to me: turn up ready and willing to work the train only to be told it has been cancelled due to no train crew.”
This one from a commuter: “The biggest evil of it all is that the so called ‘GTR’ is a ghost. We can neither see nor touch them. And this they know. The staff are being used as a blooded shield, intentionally bashed about time and time again.”
This from an employee: “Not forgetting of course the platform staff, trying to maintain a service where trains suddenly get cancelled with hundreds of extra people dumped on a platform, no staff to move the train so it’s blocking a platform, and the lack of ‘on the spot’ managers who can make decisions and the lack of information from Control, who don’t seem to know what is going on either because they have to try and work out what to do – all the while staff trying to answer customer queries about how to get to where they’re going and being shouted at by customers who are being fed the ‘sickness’ lie.”
Among the many issues that still confuse me are these two:
1. If there is a staff shortage, why are Southern not recruiting. See their vacancies page. Or is there some kind of assumption that things will just get better with no action from them?
2. Why have I had now three messages from train crews which confirm that they have been arriving, as contracted, to take out trains only to be told that they have been cancelled, because there were no train crews.
I have gone some way towards answering these questions and written a short book to do so. It is now published on Amazon as an ebook (£1.99 of which 10p for every copy goes to the Railway Benefits Fund). There will shortly also be a paperback...
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