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.