I have to admit this rather scared me. I also wrote an open letter to the chief executive of Southern's operators, Govia Thameslink Railway. Between the two posts, there were just over 100,000 views.
This was a measure partly of how many people were desperate at the delays, and how little it was being covered in the wider media. I since took them down again, not because I disagreed with them but because they were not accurate enough.
Because, as a result of the attention, the messages had started to arrive. I had texts, emails and tweets, some long and detailed, some short and emotional, from passengers, drivers and platform staff. I had short messages full of swearwords. I had long messages from company chairmen, sitting on motionless trains outside Clapham Junction, explaining that – as far as they could see – Southern Railways was unravelling before their very eyes.
I had messages from Southern staff who had resigned that day, from desperate people in wheelchairs who were unable to get on and off. In short, I had a huge repository of information.
I have been attempting, in a very small way, to reinvent publishing by starting an ebook enterprise and publishing print-on-demand paperbacks (The Real Press) with the idea that we could be much more flexible and fast than the year long wait for books from big publishers.
This seemed to me to be a challenge to me personally. So over the past seven days, I have researched, written and published a short book about the Southern Rail unravelling.
I hope, and believe, that it is the truth - and that's a difficult thing to understand. What I found was surprising and disturbing, and I believe it has important implications for other public services managed in the same way.
So Cancelled! is now published as an ebook at £1.99. It is also now out as a paperback. I'm giving 10p from every sale to the Railway Benefit Fund, as a small gesture towards the brave, resourceful and put-upon railwaypeople I have met in the last few, exhausting days.
It is extremely hard to uncover the truth when government ministers seem determined that it should be otherwise - especially when this is the aftermath of an industrial dispute (and those are about as easy to understand by outsiders as divorces). But I have tried and - it seems to me - that we with no democratic and no economic influence over the services we use (Southern don't keep the ticket money or pay out the delay refunds), have to find better ways of making a stand and making things happen.
I hope Cancelled! can be a first step towards doing so.
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