Thursday, 5 January 2017

Southern Rail – we need action now

Well 2017 is now with us and I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. But in my heart of hearts I know that is simply not realistic when the situation with Southern Rail grinds on causing misery to commuters who face daily uncertainties about getting to work and getting home – at a reasonable time.

Whoever you are: young, old, working, retired, sick, well, I cannot think that anyone hasn’t been affected in some way by the strikes. As the Leader of West Sussex County Council - the third largest employer in the county – I have witnessed first-hand the impact the strikes have been having on staff and my fellow County Councillors. This is neither right, nor fair.

And it’s not just commuters affected, we have seen the ongoing situation directly impact on students getting to school and college and to patients attending hospital appointments.

I have written to the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling to highlight both the economic and social impact the industrial action is having on residents.

A recent study carried out by the University of Chichester found that the economic impact to date of the strikes could be as much as £300 million to the country. The findings put the impact on the economy at around £11 million for each strike day. The report calculated the total economic costs to the thousands of commuters who were delayed, have missed work or have had to stay at home.
The direct impact on commuters can be seen from the Association of British Commuters (ABC) survey 2016. The survey went live on 10 December last year and received more than 1,000 responses in just 24 hours. It asked a series of questions to establish the effect on commuters lives and wellbeing during the last six months of the Southern Rail crisis.

The findings make interesting reading and I would encourage you to have a look. Some of the key statistics show that 97.63% of respondents felt their overall travelling experience had got worse in the last six months. When looking at issues commuters faced, more than 95% of people said they had experienced cancelled trains ‘daily’ or ‘often’ and 73% said they had experienced delays to their journey.

A question asking how the poor service has impacted on work life brought some very poignant answers. Examples included tiredness and stress, considering moving house due to commute, changed job due to commute, losing out on job offers and receiving a warning for lateness or poor performance.

It was the same for a question on wellbeing and personal life. Some of the answers here included quality of life deteriorating, relationships under strain, suffering from physical health issues, financial impact and less time for family life.

When asked who is most responsible for the situation, 44% of respondents felt it laid equally between Southern Rail, the Department for Transport and the unions.

Wherever the fault may lie, it is clear the situation now feels out of control and it has certainly been going on for far too long. It’s time for all parties concerned to sit down in a room, leave egos and power struggles outside the door and sort out the issue once and for all for everyone. So that in the future residents and commuters will have a reliable, trustworthy service that they can depend on. Surely that’s not too big an ask?

Best wishes,

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