Your complete guide to Thursday’s #SouthernFail protest: How You Can Help

Thursday’s march from Victoria to the Department for Transport is organised by ABC, the pressure group soon to undertake a judicial review of the government’s handling of Southern Rail.

Sign up to the protest here and please share as widely as possible:

We are seeing nothing but inflammatory and “politically motivated” statements from the Transport Minister at a time when he is already six  months late in stepping in to solve this unprecedented rail crisis. His complete lack of assertive and transparent action puts him in total dereliction of his duty to the public.

Most worrying of all is the suggestion that the Department for Transport has been blocking a resolution to the dispute behind the scenes. This is a question we now urgently need the answer to. If it is indeed the case, we are going through these excruciating strikes for nothing!

What is rotten in Southern Rail started long before the current industrial action; which now takes place on top of a broken infrastructure, chronic understaffing and a company whose relations with the public have irretrievably broken.

Our demands to the DfT include: 1) urgent and transparent intervention into the industrial dispute 2) a fully independent public inquiry into the collapse of Southern Rail 3) transparency from the government in the form of answers to our crowdsourced questions. If Chris Grayling will not take these actions, he should immediately resign.

How You Can Help:

  • Join the protest tomorrow and bring along as many fellow-sufferers as possible! There will be free mince pies, carol singing, a Facebook live stream and many other stunts, including a big media presence at the DfT for you to state your views to the press directly.
  • Send a copy of our Open Letter to chris.grayling@dft.gsi.gov.uk, copying in your MP

open-letter-to-chris-grayling

  • Send a copy of our PDF of “Urgent questions for the DfT” to chris.grayling@dft.gsi.gov.uk and your MP

urgent-questions-for-the-department-for-transport

  • Sign up now to our Thunderclap, part of our simultaneous online protest for those who can’t make it! This mass social media action starts from 5pm and is already set to reach 300,000 people – this could be one million by tomorrow. It is sure to be followed by a Twitter storm like no other: so, stay online, participate, and watch the ABC Twitter and Facebook for our live videos from the protest. Don’t forget to tell the press and MPs how the Southern Rail crisis has affected you, using the hashtags #SouthernFail or #GraylingMustResign

Volunteering

Anyone coming to the protest who can help with printing A4 black and white documents please get in touch. There will be other roles we need help with on the day, so please get in touch if you’d like to help.

Guests

We are expecting a diverse attendance of guests, a lot of press, and are also hoping to welcome an MP or two. All are welcome to attend and speak to our ABC media team for broadcast, but we ask that there are no banners from trades unions or political parties. This request is made in order to focus all attention on the urgent problem at hand in a climate that has been wilfully and unforgivably driven to a crisis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Campaign: Open Letter on Health & Safety to Southern Rail, DfT and Select Comittee for Transport

With an increasing number of health and safety risks being reported by commuters, we have now launched an Open Letter to the CEO of Southern Rail, marked for the attention of the Department for Transport and Transport Select Committee.

We ask all commuters who have experienced or witnessed a health and safety incident on the network to add their comment to our Open Letter here. Please keep comments as brief and clear as possible, with a maximum length of 80 words.

As the evidence accumulates, we will be addressing CEO of Southern Rail and the Department for Transport directly. We have also spoken to the Parliamentary Select Committee for Transport of our fears over escalating violence on the network, and they have kindly agreed to accept our evidence as an official submission as part of their ongoing Rail Safety Inquiry, details here.

Our aim with this new campaign is to provide a vehicle for a large amount of witness statements to be brought to the attention of the above authorities. In the case of longer submissions, especially those of a more serious nature, please comment in brief on our Open Letter and follow up with a longer submission to the Select Committee; and if necessary, a police report.

We have also raised our concerns with the British Transport Police today, who have provided a statement here. They are keen that rail users are reminded of their text message service, which provides a discreet method of contact in case you feel threatened while trapped in the crowd – the number is 61016 (this is not a substitute for dialling 999, which should be used in the case of an emergency).

The Select Committee for Transport have also emphasised that they are keen to hear suggestions on how the safety of passengers can be improved in the short term. If you have any ideas on how Southern Rail staff and the British Transport Police can better serve commuters, please comment below this post.

 

 

Health & Safety risks worsen as commuters fear violence & assault on Southern Rail

Since instructing our lawyers to write to the Department for Transport last week regarding the escalating health and safety concerns on Southern Rail, we have become increasingly concerned over the risks of violence on the network.

The health and safety risks on the network now form our most immediate concern; and we fear that the very real impact of the crisis in terms of crowd psychology has been ignored by Southern Rail management, and suffers a lack of oversight from the Department for Transport.

The stress of severe overcrowding, competition for trains, and a breakdown of trust in the management create a volatile crowd situation that seems to be leading to an increasing number of violent incidents on the network. For an insight into the mass psychology of the situation, please see Dr. John Drury’s comments published last week: http://drury-sussex-the-crowd.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/southern-rail-and-psychology-of-crowd.html

Please be aware that officers from the British Transport Police are available throughout the network to respond to incidents of this nature. If you feel threatened or endangered in any way, you can contact them by texting 61016; which is a discreet way to get in touch if you are stuck in a violent situation on a packed train. You can also call the BTP on 0800 405040 (in an emergency, always dial 999).

We have just been in touch with the British Transport Police on this issue, and they gave us the following statement in reponse to our concerns:

“We are in constant discussion with Southern Rail and continue to monitor the situation so that we can deploy officers where needed. Where any disruption occurs, we have officers available to support rail staff and passengers.

In general, we know that incidents of violence on the railway tend to occur more often when there is disruption or overcrowding, particularly at peak times. The types of violent incidents reported to us tend to be common assaults resulting in no injury to the victim.

The main drive behind the incidents appears to be frustration and a lack of patience among commuters leading to low level physical and verbal assaults. We can all make a difference by being kind and considerate to our fellow passengers.”

The ABC team is busy working on further health and safety campaigns related to these issues, and will be publishing updates with further avenues for action soon.

 

 

 

Fears for Health & Safety on Southern Rail – our lawyers write to the DfT

We have been inundated with reports of health and safety risks related to overcrowding on the Southern Rail network; problems that we have witnessed for many months, and have reached their peak during the strike action.

Our lawyers have now written to the DfT seeking clarity on whether they have conducted any risk analysis in advance of the RMT strikes, and at what point the DfT will consider these risks to be seen to be sufficiently serious to warrant termination of the franchise. We seek to know what instructions (if any) the DfT have given GTR in minimising the effect on rail users during this time, and whether GTR’s implementation of these instructions is being properly monitored.

The witness reports of which we have informed the DfT include: incidents of violence at Brighton station, dangerous overcrowding and mass panic in crowds, mass rushes along overcrowded platforms to board trains in the case of last-minute announcements, a child left abandoned on a platform due to overcrowding, and illness and incapacity brought on in the vulnerable, pregnant, elderly and disabled.

Statement from the Association of British Commuters

“The Select Committee for Transport confirmed last week what ABC has been arguing for months – that the Department for Transport have failed to monitor and enforce the GTR franchise agreement, and are evading their responsibility to provide proper transparency.

In the meantime, with no confidence in GTR’s management of the network, or the DfT’s oversight; we feel that the extra overcrowding during the strikes represents an unacceptable health and safety risk to the public and fear that it is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ we will see a tragedy on the network.”

The Transport Select Committee’s report – released 14th October.

We highly recommend reading the full report, which backs up the arguments that the Association of British Commuters have been making for months. In regard to the Department for Transport’s responsibility to step in to resolve the ongoing failure of GTR and the industrial dispute with the RMT, please note the following; and be reminded that the GTR contract is not a typical franchise agreement, but a management contract.

Extract from paragraph 52:

Whilst the dispute can ultimately only be resolved through negotiation between GTR and the RMT, given the Department’s unusually direct involvement in the TSGN franchise it should take a greater degree of responsibility for fostering productive negotiations. We therefore urge the new Rail Minister and Secretary of State to engage more actively and substantively with the rail unions’ safety and workforce-related concerns in relation to the expansion of DOO on the TSGN franchise, as a matter of urgency.

Extract from paragraph 56:

We are concerned that no official impact assessment has been made of the potential effects of DOO on disabled people’s access to the railway. We recommend the DfT and the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) jointly commission research into the potential effects of DOO on the “turn up and go” accessibility of the railway to disabled people who require assistance getting on and off trains. The Department should draw on this research to issue guidance to train operating companies on the measures that should be taken to mitigate potential detrimental effects on disabled people’s access. It should ensure that actions are taken to guarantee that disabled rail passengers receive the support to which they are entitled.

Extract from paragraph 82:

If GTR is in default, it is incumbent on the Department to take the franchise back in house and then to find one or more operators that can improve the situation. It is simply not credible for the DfT to continue to claim that “no other operator” could improve the situation; if it is the case, it is a consequence of the structuring of the franchise, for which the Department is ultimately accountable.

For the full report, click here.