Open Letter on Health & Safety

With the following letter, we will address the CEO of Southern Rail directly; and mark it for the attention of the Department for Transport and the Parliamentary Select Committee for Transport, who are currently conducting a Rail Safety Enquiry.

The Association of British Commuters has been advocating for the health and safety of members of the travelling public throughout the summer of 2016; the period during which the Southern Rail crisis has had a catastrophic effect on the lives of commuters across the South.

With little confidence remaining in either GTR’s management, or the DfT’s oversight, we recently instructed our lawyers to write to the Department for Transport of our concern that the severe overcrowding on Southern Rail represents an unacceptable health and safety risk to the public. We currently await a response on the level of monitoring and risk analysis they have conducted, especially as regards the period of the ongoing RMT strikes.

In the meantime, ABC continues to receive daily reports of aggressive competition for trains, mass rushes along platforms, and increased risks to vulnerable passengers; including the disabled, elderly and pregnant. We have also heard reports of what seems to be an increasing frequency of violent and lawless behaviour on the network, and fear that the mass psychological effect of these conditions will grow increasingly dangerous and unpredictable.

Expert social psychologist Dr. John Drury recently suggested that – beyond the factors of stressful overcrowding and open competition for trains – the lack of trust in the management represents an increased risk in terms of the mass psychological effect of these conditions. Several members of our commuter network have made comments to the same effect, noting that ‘the mood is turning darker among passengers’. With the ongoing and catastrophic effect of Southern Rail on individual’s lives; we are seriously concerned that these effects may erupt into increasingly unpredictable behaviour and more serious incidents.

We invite members of our commuter network to comment below about the health and safety incidents they have witnessed or experienced while using Southern Rail. We will be making an official submission of the evidence we accumulate to the Parliamentary Select Committee for Transport, who are currently conducting an enquiry into Rail Safety.

For commuters: when adding your comment, please be as brief and clear as possible, keeping your submission below 80 words, and including the date and location of the incident. Those seeking to make a longer submission should comment in brief here, and follow up with a direct submission to the Select Committee for Transport via this link.




22 thoughts on “Open Letter on Health & Safety”

  1. I witnessed an episode of aggressive behaviour on a packed 16.47 Victoria to Horsham (via Sutton) on the 15th Sept. This was by a female who was asked to move her bag off a seat to allow another passenger to sit down. The female initially aggressively refused however the other passenger sat down on the seat space not occupied by the bag. The female then displayed aggression & violence to the other passenger throughout the journey until Sutton – deliberately elbowing, pushing, trying to nudge the passenger off the seat between London and Sutton. It looked at one point as if she was going to attack the other passenger who was standing their ground. I reported it twice via BTP text message but nothing happened. The 2nd text response recommended ringing 999 or getting the attention of officers on a (packed) train or platform!! No help whatsoever for this poor passenger. I have no faith in this service for protecting Southern passengers on Driver Only Operated services. If this female had stabbed the other passenger, there would be no help.


  2. On Tuesday 11 October I had to attend a Cardio Clinic at the Princess Royal Hospital. Clinic opens at 0900. I arrived at 0915, and the clinic was closed as the nurses were stuck on trains because of the strike. I was lucky that I only had to give back some kit, but the delay on appointments and the impact on people’s heath is unacceptable. Appreciate this happened outside of a journey, but the effect of the strikes has a very real impact on people’s health. This industrial action cannot be allowed to continue if only for the benefit of our health service


  3. Travelling late at night, two drunken men racially abused a woman on her own, threatening to stab her and watch the blood drain out of her. Fearing the possible knife, other passengers were reluctant to get involved. The woman called her boyfriend to meet her at East Croydon with a knife to stab the drunks before they stabbed her. The guard threw the drunks off the train at Selhurst, preventing a very serious incident. DOO does not work for lone female travellers.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. 23/10 (a NON-STRIKE day) travelling from Eastbourne to London. Bus replacement from Lewes added an extra hour to journey then turfed off of a cancelled train at Crawley with no explanation. Platforms were so crowded at this point with passengers not sure what was happening. We were eventually told the next train would be across the platform by a passing member of staff but stayed where I was and waited for the next train as people were already shoulder to shoulder, end to end of that platform. Concerns over health and safety? Yeah, right…pull the other one. It has a reliable service actually worth the ticket fee on it. It’s disgusting but it will actually take a serious incident involving passengers that I’m sure would rather crawl on their own faces to get to their destinations before this mess is sorted.


  5. Two elderly woman, after an evening at a Piano event at the Royal Albert Hall, both in motility scooters, boarded the late service to Littlehampton train at Victoria. The train was taken out of service at Three Bridges due to lack of Staff. It was the last train, there was no bus replacement. After a long heated debate and numerous calls to the controllers, it became apparent that to abandon these two ladies on the platform would have been injurious to their health. Magically the train was put back into service as far as Worthing (their stop). The stress that was inflicted on these two woman was unsanctionable.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I catch the 1700 Chichester – Brighton train daily. Since the emergency timetable was introduced (still in operation on that line), the packed platform and elbowing/jostling for position to board the train has become unsafe and I have seen several commuters stumble and trip. This is because the rush hour service is much reduced because of the emergency timetable and several trains’ worth are boarding at once. How long before one is seriously hurt? Have travelled this line for 20 years and it has never been this bad.


  7. 25/10/16 London Victoria station platform 18 19:05-19:17 8 male youths on bicycles cycling along the platform amongst foot passengers. Cycled past numerous staff members. Reported to passing staff members whose sole action was the reply ‘I know’. Late platform notice (usual) resulted in rushing floods of passengers through which the boys cycled. Personally remonstrated each one to no avail. Overcrowded platform, overcrowded train with 8 cycles added, no crowd control, no safety hazard control on platform or train. Staff reluctant to be approached by passengers, often rude, dismissive or ignoring completely but ignoring blatant safety hazard unacceptable. Not a case of atmosphere ‘turning’ dark, it is dark now, lawless and threateningly dark at peak time.


  8. July, August, September 2016. Overcrowding is not a simple barrier to passengers being able to embark onto a train. It affects passengers upon the train that cannot disembark. Have had to cancel appointments with clients when the worker has called to inform that they could not disembark at the right stop and been carried further along the line. Same worker has also been subject to non-stopping at scheduled stops and been unable to meet clients. Clients failing to have counselling as scheduled is negative to their emotional health. Counsellor stuck on train subject to emotional and physical negative health effects. Counsellor has resigned from post, clients now subject to longer waiting list, charity facing financial negative implications – all due to Southern Rail failing to provide service and performance resulting in dangerous overcrowding and inappropriate non-stopping.


  9. Sussex Coastway short platform overcrowding. Due to cancellations (not on strike days) short platforms can be dangerously overcrowded on 4-6car platform lengths. There are never, ever staff available to manage crowds on these types of station platforms. Only able bodied adults are able to ensure their own safety or embarking on trains. Less able and children are vulnerable and unable to secure embarking on a crowded train. In addition there is limited cover to protect passengers from the elements, just a small bus shelter open fronted type, not sufficient for cancelled trains resulting in 45minute waits. Complete lack of information supplied at these stations means that people cannot make alternative plans or decide upon a safer environment to wait at. Witnessing several events that will never get into the news, reported to GTR, Southern and MP to no avail.


  10. Every night it takes me longer and longer to wind down after the working day and a stressful attempt to reach my home station (Brighton). I can feel the tension rising as I approach the platforms at Victoria and the sight of a huge crowd and no trains on the board can leave me feeling really angry. How dare they mess with my blood pressure and health like this? I’ve heard people snap at each other, and have actively called out several men who have pushed and manhandled me and others in order to get on trains; they wouldn’t do it to their family members so why is it now acceptable?


  11. 14/09/16 0657 East Croydon to Victoria. This service is often incredibly busy as, inexplicably, it is always a four carriage train. On this occasion it was particularly packed, and the train could not leave as passengers were blocking the doors. One member of platform staff (wearing Southern uniform) instructed his colleague to ‘kick’ passengers who were in the doorways.
    11/10/16 0800 East Croydon to Victoria. Passengers 10 deep on the platform. Massive crush to get on the already packed train, with aggressive pushing from some passengers. A large man decided to take a running jump through the doors, knocking people over. Argument then ensued between large man and another passenger about how dangerous his behaviour was. Many passengers obviously felt panicked and frightened.


  12. I too regularly witness scenes of chaos at Chichester when the 17.00 to Brighton arrives. Not only have around 50% of rush hour services been lost in the emergency timetable, the newer stock that runs as 4 car units on this line, (which are the ones that have been cancelled) have apparently been used elsewhere on the network instead of providing much needed space on the coastway west. The fact that all services are due to be reinstated next week (31st October) doesn’t fill me with confidence as I don’t believe GTR have enough staff of stock to reliably run a full timetable and I predict a continuation of packed, dangerous platforms and trains on this line.


  13. At 17:33 13 June, a train arrived at Platform 13 at Clapham Junction and opened its doors. Whilst passengers were alighting and boarding there was an error or malfunction that resulted in the train moving 2 metres backwards. Any loss of balence in the moving passengers would have resulted in life-changing injury.

    Southern twitter team acknowledged recognition of this incident on that day but no record of this has appeared without additional prompting in any correspondence or FOI requests with ORR, DfT or Southern.


  14. June 2016 I accompanied a passenger from Victoria to Brighton at 10-11pm. Several trains had been cancelled that evening on account of shortage of crew. The passenger who had both physical and mental disabilities was sitting on the station floor crying as a) the train she had been booked on, with a carer to meet her had been cancelled with no notice b) she now had to make a choice of whether or not to take her pain meds as in the past she had been accused of being drunk at Brighton station and refused help. She was in tears, alone, panicked and exhausted after a trip to London for a medical appointment that she had already very nearly missed on account of her inbound journey. She should not have needed a help of a stranger, and and felt very vulnerable at having to ask someone she did not know to get her to a cab at Brighton where the rest of her train journey to Durrington had been entirely cancelled for the rest of the day. Despicable.


    1. I am blind and travel from Portslade to Victoria to work with my guide dog. Last night, first November, due to so many delays and cancellations the platforms and trains were so overcrowded that at one point my dog almost got crushed due to lots of pushing. This led to my partner telling people to stop pushing, and a group of female passengers then got in my partners face and started verbally abusing her. I was frightened and my dog was almost injured.


  15. On the 17/12/15 (yes this has been happening for many, many, many months) the 21:40 to Horsham was cancelled. The next train was reduced from 4 to 8 carriages. There were numerous trains delayed and being cancelled. With zero trust of the information being relayed and doubts that services would continue to run, passengers were stressed and wanting to get home. This had been going on for many months prior.

    I watched people arguing to try to get on the train. In the argument one was saying “if I don’t get catch this train I won’t get home”. I tweeted “Now on 1004 pm train where we are attempting to fit 2 pints of Guinness into a pint glass. @SouthernRailUK There is about 2 be a riot. ”

    And there was. Eventually they gave up with reason and simply pushed their way on. A fight broke out between around five passengers. Seven BT Police were called. Two people were arrested, and possibly, their lives were changed forever. Not a single representative of Southern was present.

    Unfortunately I’ve seen passengers resort to violence twice since. I’ve seen a seven year old boy being crushed and having to be passed over passengers to a seat on board a train for his safety.

    I’ve witnessed a pram being crushed on a metal gate (platform 15, London Bridge) by passengers who had no idea there was a pram there. This happened directly in front of three staff, who did nothing. Passengers lifted the pram over the gate.

    The whole situation is abhorrent and the customers of Southern deserve better NOW. Their safety (and mine) is put at risk daily by this inept organisation.


  16. 27/10/16 Clapham Junction. At 1656 it was announced that the 1656 to Three Bridges, until then displayed as due at plaform 13 on time, would depart from platform 15. About 200 people, who could see a train arriving at platform 15, scrambled to change platforms. This train was in fact the 1657 to London Bridge, but this was not announced so confusion reigned. No staff were assisting passengers on platform 15, but two blue-bibbed security guards stood there, one of them shouting aggressively at people. When the 1656 came it was already full and several dozen people, including families with small children (it was half term), were unable to board.


  17. 1) 1st November 2016, Gatwick Express service to Haywards Heath later extended to Brighton, departed Victoria 20.00 approx: many people will attest to the fact that a highly worrisome situation arose at the overcrowded platform at Three Bridges when the driver attempted to close the doors. 2) Can’t remember date and time but within the last two months between Victoria and Lewes; must happen regularly in any case: Driver requested that the conductor investigate that a passenger had activated the distress alarm in the w.c.. What is to be the procedure on DOO trains?


  18. 07/11/2016 – 06:14 Reedham to London Bridge train. I joined the train using the last door of a 4 carriage train. I had pressed the button to open the door & stood next to the door as I was getting off at the next stop Purley.
    The train started to pull away and the doors remained open. I would estimate that the train travelled three carriage lengths before stopping, at which time the closing door notification sound could be heard, the doors closed and the train continued on its journey. At no point thereafter was there any announcement or apology.
    On arrival at Purley, I informed staff on the platform of what had happened asking whether this would have been a train or driver problem. They went towards the train and I didn’t get a response. I changed platforms to get the 06:26 service to London Victoria.
    The London Bridge train was then coupled with a four carriage train from Caterham and left Purley before the London Victoria train came in, which allowed me to observe its departure.
    I took from this that there was no problem with the train.

    I then sent two tweets to Southern Rail drawing their attention to the incident and at 07:23 I got a Twitter response from Amy at Southern Rail saying that it had been reported for investigation. I await any further updates…..

    I would not normally be concerned, but as a daily commuter who frequently travels on very crowded trains, and a father of two children who also use Southern Rail, it is a major concern that a train can set off with its doors still open.


  19. On the 12th October between Victoria and Brighton the train called at Clapham junction additionally. It was already overcrowded and people on the platform were shoving people on the train. There was a blind man and some of the other passengers asked people to stop shoving and the response from a man on the platform was he can move his legs can’t he? The anger between the two men was quite intense and it could easily have escalated to violence rather than the swearing match between them. Some passengers had to calm them down and the blind man was made to feel isolated. It must have been very terrifying for him as it was for the rest of us on the train.


  20. The last 8 months of Southern Rail chaos has coincided with my first pregnancy. It’s been unsafe and exhausting… crammed in the aisles, pushed around on platforms, held in a pen behind a fence at Brighton station for long periods of time [with no way to nip to the toilet or sit down]. Weeping to myself quietly as I stand in the aisles exhausted, seething with anger that there are elderly and disabled getting being left on the platform with no help to navigate the chaotic coastway route. I’ve been elbowed and pushed in the bump loads of times, not on purpose but because there is no space on the carriage for all of the passengers. I’ve tripped over in the aisles trying to get off at my stop (Portslade)… people kindly let me sit down but it’s very hard for them to make space for me to get off safely due to the crowding. It takes over an hour to travel the twelve miles from Portslade to Lewes and costs over £1800 a year. I’m sorry to contribute to the congestion on the roads but the safety of me and my bump comes first so I’ve bought a car. I hope I can safely see out the next few weeks and will hopefully drive to and from work when I return after maternity leave. Southern you’ve finally broken me!


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