Tuesday 10 January 2017

Join me for a small bit of civil disobedience - with cake...

I'm certainly not a conspiracy theorist. Quite the reverse in fact. But the bizarre way that the poor put-upon passengers are being pressured into taking sides in the rail dispute - for the management or for the unions, as if that was the only issue - might just make me one.

Perhaps most worrying of all has been the way that the two women, arts journalists, who run the Association of British Commuters are being vilified in the media. 

The strange thing is that I have huge admiration for Andrew Gilligan, and I hope he's realised that he got it wrong this time. He's taken the side of passengers before and I'm sure he will again.

We are in short being forced to take sides in the traditional oh-so-British management-versus-labour battle – when the slow collapse of Southern Rail is mainly to do with incompetent franchising from the Department of Transport and absentee landlord behaviour from the Treasury and owners Go Ahead (as well, of course, on the usual useless industrial relations that seems so inevitable in the UK).

How do we keep up the voice of passengers in this great squeeze? The answer is to learn from Gandhi. Which is why I’m going to demonstrate a little light civil disobedience on Wednesday at 5.45pm at the barrier at Brighton Station (assuming they don’t cancel my train).

In short, as a regular user of GTR services (Southern, Thameslink etc), I have now reached the end of my tether. I’m not any more prepared to submit my ticket (which I will buy) to the company for inspection, when they have manifestly failed to provide me with an adequate or reliable service, now for eight months.

So do join me. I hope it will be fun. We will politely, demand to see the manager to open the gates for us – on the grounds that they are not keeping to their side of the contract. We will also have cake to celebrate our revival of the Blitz spirit in the face of such official indifference.

If the gates are open already, we will claim victory and try again another day. I’ve been blogging about this crisis – and the industrial dispute which is also going on – since June now. And I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a matter of self-respect. If we can be pushed around like this on this relatively small matter – taking our money, increasing fares, giving us an increasingly useless service – then what else will they do to us? 

It is time to draw a line in the sand for reasonable people. Please come along on Wednesday and help me draw it! And please use the hashtag #passengerstrike 

See my book Cancelled! on the Southern Railways disaster, now on sale for £1.99 (10p goes to Railway Benefit Fund).

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