Chris Grayling remains Transport Minister – will he continue to bury vital Southern Rail report?

It was announced in yesterday’s cabinet reshuffle that Chris Grayling is to remain in place as Transport Minister. A quick glance at our Twitter timeline will tell you just how outraged commuters are about this – Grayling is widely blamed for his refusal to solve the Southern Rail crisis, despite the company being in special measures for nearly two years.

It is exactly six months since hundreds of commuters marched to the doors of the Department for Transport, demanding that Grayling either intervene in the Southern Rail management contract, or resign. He did neither: instead he chose to lay insult upon injury to southern passengers by withholding an essential report into the causes of the Southern Rail crisis.

The star railwayman Chris Gibb was touted by the Transport Minister back in September as the best person to analyse and fix the problems on Southern. However, the “Gibb report” has now been under lock and key at the Department for Transport for nearly six months, denying the public their right to a solution – and their right to answers – after suffering through this unprecedented rail crisis.

ABC protest at DfT December credit - Bradley Rees

The General Election results – is there a “Southern Fail vote”?

Yesterday’s reshuffle came after disastrous election results for the Conservatives in many vital seats in the Southern Rail region. Conservative MPs lost their seats in Brighton Kemptown, Croydon Central and Eastbourne; while Amber Rudd narrowly hung onto her Hastings seat with a 346 majority, and Labour’s Peter Kyle achieved a landslide victory of 18,000 votes in Hove.

Nobody can prove how much the public sentiment on Southern Rail affected these results, but we can remind you of the responses to our ABC Passenger Survey of December 2016, based on an in-depth questionnaire completed by 1000 commuters.

MP doing all they can

next election conservatives

The Gibb report must be released immediately – and in full.

Nobody who is watching our campaign could have failed to notice our pursuit of the Gibb report over the past six months. This vital report into the true causes of the Southern Rail crisis remains under lock and key at the Department for Transport, and has been reported by Graeme Paton of The Times to be heavily critical of the DfT’s role – Paton’s source said: “Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Network Rail don’t come well out of this, but the report is scathing of the DfT. It is dynamite.”

While ABC campaigners have spent months pursuing FOI requests on the Gibb report, Caroline Lucas MP led the pursuit in the House of Commons, asking two Parliamentary questions and finally forcing Paul Maynard MP to admit they would be holding it back until after the election – a decision she called “deeply undemocratic and an absolute disgrace”.

Our election demands went viral last month, receiving support from many Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green candidates on the urgent need for DfT accountability, disabled access, and the stripping of the Southern Rail contract. We were especially pleased to see the Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald pick up the baton on Gibb – his stance on Southern Rail is reasonable and well-informed, as you’ll observe in this recent interview.

Andy McDonald tweet

Meanwhile, Tim Loughton, the Conservative MP for East Worthing, has tweeted that the Gibb report “must now be published without delay”. We are glad to gain support on this issue from at least one Conservative MP; after all, this is a crisis that affects the daily life of every southern constituent and should always have been a cross-party issue.

Loughton tweet 2

We are now asking all MPs to ensure that the Department for Transport stays true to its commitment to publish the Gibb report by the end of the second financial quarter – as they have already promised us in response to our FOI requests. This means that the Gibb report must be released by the end of June at the latest – and furthermore, must be published in full.

This is a matter of urgent public interest in the south, and has ramifications for transport policy all over the UK, not to mention our country’s democratic values. For Theresa May’s government to be talking about bringing in further restrictions to the right to strike when they have not even appraised the causes of this unprecedented crisis is at best premature, and at worst, ideologically motivated.

With a recent interview putting the Director of Operations Planning at Southern Rail on record as saying he “hasn’t seen the final Gibb report” we should all be asking louder than ever – to what extent is this failing rail company being micro-managed by the Department for Transport?

Please follow ABC on Facebook and Twitter to get daily updates on our campaigns – we have lots of news on the way this month.

 

 

#SouthernFail election demands from the Association of British Commuters

With the snap general election fast approaching, there is no better time for the Association of British Commuters to restate the demands we’ve been making throughout the Southern Rail crisis. We will be addressing all former and prospective MPs with these demands and requesting their full response – so we can tell you which candidates have the best positions on Southern Rail in advance of June 8th.

1. Independent Public Inquiry into the relationship between Govia Thameslink Railway and the Department for Transport.

2. The return of guaranteed assistance for disabled passengers on services currently branded as Southern Rail – best achieved through the “Guard Guarantee”.

3. Immediate removal of the TGSN contract from Govia and passenger representation in any solution; which must take into account the findings of the Chris Gibb report.

Why are these demands so important and how will they solve the Southern Rail crisis? – our demands in depth:

1. Independent public inquiry into the relationship between Govia and the DfT, to encompass civil service ethics.

Southern Rail is not a typical franchise. It is a subcontractor to the government in what has been one of the UK’s most poorly judged and catastrophic rail management contracts. The company has been in special measures for nearly two years, and is known to be in serious breach of its performance benchmarks – issues that far predate the industrial action on the network. To this day, the government postpones its verdict on force majeure (Southern’s defence for its excessive failure) and has just succeeded in burying the Chris Gibb report under the veil of ‘purdah’ rules around the upcoming general election. The Gibb report is believed to give a final analysis of the true responsibility for the Southern Rail crisis, and was reported by Graeme Paton of The Times to be heavily critical of the government’s role in particular – his source said: “Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Network Rail don’t come well out of this, but the report is scathing of the DfT. It is dynamite.” Meanwhile, the DfT are already under investigation by parliamentary watchdog the National Audit Office for their management of the GTR franchise.

It is also widely believed that the year-long industrial dispute on Southern is in fact a dispute-by-proxy, with the Department for Transport in the driving seat. Indeed, the civil servant Peter Wilkinson gave forewarning of the industrial upheaval back in February 2016 at a town hall meeting organised by Croydon MP Gavin Barwell. He said: “Over the next three years we’re going to be having punch ups and we will see industrial action and I want your support… They can’t afford to spend too long on strike and I will push them into that place.” The same Peter Wilkinson, MD of Passenger Services at the DfT, was also recently the subject of a Guardian expose over the allegation that he awarded contracts to Govia while also the director and majority shareholder of First Class Partnerships; a consultancy that had Govia as a long-standing client.

Questions about the oversight of the civil service do not end there. Govia is also the owner of the so-called Independent Penalty Fares Appeal Service, itself the subject of a Guardian expose in February 2015 which showed that customers were paying unacceptable ‘admin fees’ even in the case of a successful appeal. Shockingly, the Independent Penalty Fare Appeals Service is still in Govia’s hands, despite them also running both Southern and Southeastern franchises. In the case of the Southern management contract in particular, we believe that the issue of penalty fares requires a comprehensive review. It is a simple fact of their contract that Govia is paid a flat fee for running services, so the only way they can logically increase their income is by cost-cutting, deskilling, and adapting staff roles towards revenue protection (and thus, away from disabled access).

It is vital that the Department for Transport are finally compelled to release the details of their management contract with Govia, and the ‘remedial plan’ that announced their adapted performance benchmarks back in February 2016. Both these documents remain heavily redacted; allowing both Govia and the Department for Transport to completely evade accountability for a crisis that has already cost the taxpayer £38 million and counting. And that’s not to mention the total impact on the lives, families and livelihoods of the public – including an estimated £300 million loss to the economy in the South.

2. The return of guaranteed assistance for disabled passengers on services currently branded as Southern Rail – best achieved through the “Guard Guarantee”.

Conditions on Southern Rail have improved for regular commuters over the last three months, but we should not forget that this period has actually been the most stressful time yet for disabled passengers; dozens of whom have been left behind on platforms or have even had to throw themselves between the doors of trains to get assistance. Hundreds more – especially wheelchair users who live at rural stations – are now anxious about whether they can still spontaneously travel, since Southern Rail have suggested there is “no cast-iron guarantee” that assistance will be available at all stations.

Contrary to their claim that 0.06% of trains will run without a second staff member in “exceptional circumstances”, Southern Rail’s estimate of the number of trains running DOO keeps changing. The estimate was recently reported to be over 8,200 a year, and the most recent internal report that ABC has seen suggests 50+ trains were running without an on-board supervisor allocated on Sunday 21st May alone. This is a far cry from the 1 in 1750 trains that Southern Rail originally claimed would run without a second staff member – an estimate that would have equated to one to two trains per day. Considering Southern Rail’s contractual incentives (as queried in part one above), there are few in doubt that disabled people’s access will now be increasingly compromised by Southern Rail for the sake of cost-cutting on the network; and the redirection of resources into revenue protection.

The guarantee of a second member of staff on trains is a binary point and needs to finally be recognised as such. Unstaffed trains running to unstaffed stations constitute a breach of the Equality Act in creating a ‘policy, practice or criterion’ which actively discriminates – and this is the case whether there are 2, 50 or 2,000 unstaffed trains per day. It is not just ABC, disabled passengers and striking railway workers who are saying this – only last month we saw the highly respected railwayman Peter Rayner (one of the original architects of DOO under British Rail) break ranks with the rail industry to say the same.

Adequate staffing to ensure that Southern Rail conforms to the Equality Act can be achieved in one of two ways: 1) by a guaranteed member of staff on every train or 2) the staffing of every station from first to last. When you consider that 33 rural stations on the Southern network are completely unstaffed, and add that to the vital public security benefits of having a properly trained guard on the train; the restoration of the guard guarantee seems undeniably  the best solution. It has the added benefit of ending the industrial dispute and ensuring that any major changes to working practices are done slowly and surely, with proper care to camera equipment, dispatch procedure, and disabled access.

3. Immediate removal of the TGSN contract from Govia and passenger representation in any solution; which must take into account the findings of the Chris Gibb report.

We have campaigned all year for Govia to lose its management contract, and this remains an immediate demand of our campaign; as well as dozens of other passenger groups and MPs across London and the South. Public trust in the company is at such a catastrophic level that even the Alliance of Chambers of Commerce have spent months warning shareholders of their involvement with Govia’s parent company, The Go Ahead Group. One major shareholder, JP Morgan, finally reduced their interest in the brand just yesterday.

The removal of the TGSN franchise should be accompanied by the immediate publication of the suppressed Chris Gibb report on the true extent of the failings of Southern Rail. There is no excuse whatsoever for this report to be suppressed until after the General Election, when it offers us, finally, a proper analysis on the parties to blame for the Southern Rail crisis. The DfT’s unique management contract with Govia Thameslink Railway was always a poorly judged and unwieldy type of mega-franchise, and it may be that Gibb has recommended that the franchise be broken up into smaller parts. Whatever advice the report suggests, we demand that it is taken into account; and that passengers are given significant representation in any solution.

Furthermore, we believe that the endless industrial dispute on Southern Rail could have been easily solved back in September with a ScotRail type agreement, guaranteeing a second member of staff on all trains and thus conforming to the requirements of the Equality Act and the DfT’s Public Sector Equality Duty. The real circumstances of the industrial dispute, and the details of Southern Rail’s management contract, have been shrouded in secrecy; and we suspect that with the endless talks between Southern management, RMT and Aslef, we are watching little more than a farce. There has to be a limit to the carte blanche with which this company has been allowed to operate – and a proper calling to account of the DfT over public safety and accessibility standards – before this dispute really does spread nationwide.

ABC’s election plan

We will be asking all former MPs and candidates in the Southern Rail region to respond to the points above, and to account for their position on the Southern Rail crisis over the course of 2016-17. As always, we extend our invitation to MPs from every political party and will endorse all those who wish to support our three campaign demands

For passengers, we are soon to launch a “Southern Fail election app”, which will come pre-loaded with all major parties, MPs and constituencies, in order to help commuters be heard on their feelings about this vital election issue.

On party politics and the renationalisation debate:

As a campaign, we do not support any one party, and insist on staying focused on the issues of justice and transparency in UK transport; on which our non-profit organisation was founded. We can only succeed in this aim by being scrupulously focused on these issues, and our lobbying on the Southern Rail crisis will continue in exactly the same way whatever government ends up in power.

It’s also important for us to make clear that we do not take a position on the renationalisation debate – and this is not because we like to sit on the fence! Rather, it is important for the clarity of our #SouthernFail campaign that it does not get conflated into a general call for renationalisation. The Southern Rail crisis is unique because it is driven by the worst of both private industry and state stranglehold – and it’s essential that we keep attention focused on these specific circumstances.

To stay in touch with ABC’s election news, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

*this article was edited on 28.05.17. to correct an error – it is in fact the Alliance of Chambers of Commerce who have been writing to shareholders about the Southern Rail crisis, not the Sussex Chambers of Commerce as previously stated.

The truth about Chris Gibb and Southern Rail’s late night timetable changes…

Southern Rail’s late night timetable changes begin tomorrow, after the announcement earlier this month that late night trains between London Victoria and East Croydon will be cancelled indefinitely.

This has been met with angry reactions from late-night travelers, shift workers and even TfL, who complained that they had only been given three weeks notice of the changes, instead of the standard three months, according to Inside Croydon. For commuters, the notice period wasn’t quite so generous – we got just two weeks.

The reason for these changes is to allow Network Rail to perform essential maintenance work at night. It’s not in itself a bad plan, as East Croydon to Victoria operates as a 24-hour railway, making it particularly poor at resilience. But, why was this announcement so sudden? We asked this question of several people in the rail establishment and it led us to an answer – the late-night timetable changes are a recommendation from the Chris Gibb report. If you’d like to substantiate this, take a look at the recommendations he made for the West Coast Main Line in 2012 (same plan was used) or pose a question to Southern Rail, Network Rail or the Department for Transport directly.

Chris Gibb’s report has been suppressed by the government for nearly five months, and will now be held back until after the General Election. Chris Gibb is the star railwayman brought in to fix the problems on Southern Rail back in September 2016, so it is outrageous that the government refuse to release this report when by doing so they could finally explain to the public why the franchise has gone so badly wrong. In the meantime, MPs like Chris Philp still try to push the agenda of anti-strike laws in advance of the General Election – wouldn’t it be more reasonable for him to assess all parties’ true culpability for the crisis first and actually read the Gibb report?

It has been reported by Graeme Paton of The Times that the report is heavily critical of the government’s role in the Southern Rail crisis. His source said: “GTR and Network Rail don’t come well out of this, but the report is scathing of the DfT. It is dynamite.” It is not difficult to imagine, therefore, why it is being suppressed until after the General Election (if indeed it will ever reach the public). In all our months of chasing the report through FOI requests, just one MP has stood up and chased the report in Parliament: Caroline Lucas finally got an answer from Rail Minister Paul Maynard last month, calling his decision “deeply undemocratic and an absolute disgrace.”

ABC’s co-founder Emily Yates challenged Southern Rail on BBC Sussex two weeks ago – claiming that the late-night timetable changes were a recommendation in the Chris Gibb report and that this was being deliberately concealed. When pushed by the host Neil Pringle, Southern’s Director of Operations Planning admitted that he “had not seen the final Gibb report”. A single question now hangs in the air: If Southern Rail’s own Director of Operations Planning hasn’t seen the Gibb report, then just how badly is this company being micro-managed by the Department for Transport?

 

ABC will continue to ask questions throughout the General Election period, and we’ll soon be launching an updated version of our #SouthernFail app to help you tell your MP how you feel about their performance on Southern Rail! Stay tuned to our Twitter and Facebook channels for updates.

If you’d like to support our upcoming protests, election plans and legal action against the DfT, please sign up to our newsletter here.

A full list of late-night services to be scrapped can be found here.

Commuters and small businesses should support the ACES campaign: addressing Southern Rail shareholders directly…

With the Department for Transport as secretive as ever and even now concealing their decision on whether Govia is in default of its contract, commuters feel abandoned by their MPs and government. As a grass-roots campaign with limited resources, we have done as much as we can in taking the government to task, and await news from the Court next month on whether we can proceed with our judicial review.

In the meantime, the ongoing silence from MPs is shocking; even while the DfT is subject to ongoing leaks, a judicial review funded by passengers, a National Audit Office investigation and a soon-to-be-released ‘dynamite’ report from Chris Gibb. All this takes place on top of a seemingly endless industrial dispute, believed to be precedent-setting for the entire UK. The question has to be asked: if Govia cannot be trusted to run trains, how can they be trusted to act as a proxy on matters of policy?

Southern Rail is in a unique contractual relationship with the Department for Transport. They have no financial incentive to end the dispute, having already been paid a flat fee for their ‘management’ term. While no typical franchise would have let such disruption go on for so long – Southern Rail can, because they are able to pass all losses from strike action on to the taxpayer. (This includes £38 million to compensate them for lack of fare revenue during the strikes, £15 million for season ticket holder compensation, and a £300 million estimated cost to the economy.)

Govia’s only possible financial incentive lies in cutting costs, and we have more than enough reason to suspect that this is just the incentive that will drive the outcome of the industrial dispute. This concern reflects more than just the unions’ fear of what will happen after this particular franchise ends. We have recently seen Southern Rail remove the guarantee of ‘turn up and go’ travel from 33 stations on their network, reducing it to zero. This backwards step in accessibility is one that former DfT and Govia advisor Ann Bates OBE has warned could set back disabled access by thirty years.

Could it be that we are allowing the most toxic and mistrusted company in the UK to decide the benchmarks of safety and accessibility that may later be in use all over the country?

The ACES campaign: boycott and divestment from The Go-Ahead Group

ACES is an alliance of Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses, who hit the press with their ‘Great Train Robbers’ protest at Eastbourne station last Monday. They represent 5,000 small business owners and 20,000 employees in East Sussex – many of whom have been brought to their knees by the shockwaves of the Southern Rail crisis. ACES’ current campaign is pioneered by Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce boss Christina Ewbank, and targets the shareholders of Govia’s parent company, the Go-Ahead Group.

The Go-Ahead Group owns 65% of Govia, with the other 35% owned by the French transport company Keolis. Significant shareholders in Go-Ahead include:@johambro, @ameriprise, @Investec, @vanguard_group, @PremierInvestIA, @jpmorgan and @StandardLifeplc. For a full list of Go-Ahead shareholders, click here.

Open letters were dispatched by ACES at the beginning of the month asking shareholders to “reconsider their portfolio”. Copies of the letters can be downloaded below:

jo-hambro-open-letter

ameriprise-open-letter

investec-open-letter

investec-john-mcnab-open-letter

premier-portfolio-managers-open-letter

You can stay in touch with Christina Ewbank and the Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce through Twitter: @EwbankChristina and @EBChamber

Equality of Access Crisis: Disabled passengers deserve answers – Letter to Charles Horton from ABCD

ABCD is a group of disabled passengers within the ABC community who wish to raise their voices on the access problems they are facing on Southern Rail. The removal of guaranteed assistance has been feared for months now, and many people now feel they are victims of indirect discrimination through the loss of spontaneous travel.

The following letter has been dispatched to the CEO of Southern Rail, Charles Horton, and asks him to properly address the impact of the changes his company is implementing. It has also been copied to the Rail Delivery Group, and the Ministers for Transport, Rail and Disabled People. If you have been affected by the incidents described in the letter, please scroll to the end to find out how to send your own version.

Dear Mr. Horton,

We at ABCD (Association of British Commuters Disabled Passengers) are very concerned about the discriminatory nature of the latest Exceptional Circumstances list within the Aslef train driver agreement.

Southern Rail recently rolled back the provision of ‘turn up and go’ travel from 33 stations to zero, and we are incredibly concerned that they are taking this regrettable backwards step in accessibility. We believe this contravenes the Public Sector Equality Duty under the Equality Act 2010, and the protections from discrimination assured by the Human Rights Act 1998.

ABCD is also deeply concerned about a recent RAIL magazine article where a Southern Rail spokesperson suggested that “only” those in wheelchairs would be inconvenienced by not having an OBS onboard – a comment we find deeply offensive.  Passengers with a range of physical and mental disabilities are disadvantaged by not having an OBS on board. The spokesperson’s comment, separating disabled people into “types”, is highly discriminatory in nature.

Disabled people should be treated equally no matter their impairment; removing the guaranteed second person from the train removes the rights of disabled people to work and enjoy leisure time just like any other member of society. We have made great strides in UK transport since the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 was introduced, and now Southern Rail wants to turn the clock back.

Thanks to Southern always having a guard on their longer distance services, we were able to travel spontaneously before the removal of guards.  Since the OBS system has come in, there have been countless stories of disabled passengers being left on the train at unstaffed stations, left stranded on platforms and insufficient support for transition to follow on journeys.

We have been told that we can book 24 hours in advance for support; however, this advance booking has been well known for its unreliability, particularly in recent journeys made by our members on Southern. As most services in the UK have a guaranteed second person, there shouldn’t be a need to book 24 hours in advance; which rules out all chance for a disabled person to live a spontaneous life.

We ask you to remember that disabled people don’t just live at the beginning of a route, so if a train goes without an OBS, it will affect those down the whole line, wherever they decide to get on and off anywhere on that route. This also applies to the OBS who change during the route, for example, we may have an OBS from say London Victoria to Three Bridges, but then another one from Three Bridges to Bognor Regis. Drivers often do not seem to know whether they have an OBS onboard or not until the last minute, and have been caught in many situations where they have been put in the dilemma of stopping the train and providing assistance, or leaving a wheelchair user behind on the platform.

The removal of guaranteed assistance and scrapping of ‘turn up and go’ is having a huge impact on disabled people’s lives. We are constantly worrying about every stage of our journey, not knowing if we can get on or off a train, or if there will be assistance at our destination station. This is leading to worsening mental health issues and a great deal of worry, because having a guaranteed second person is essential for our peace of mind and personal security. The additional anxiety, and extra physical and mental exhaustion in navigating travel, is likely to exacerbate disabled people’s impairments further.

We have heard of wheelchair users and other helpful passengers throwing themselves between doors to prevent the train departing, or even breaking into the guard’s cupboard to assist disabled passengers. On Thursday evening at Victoria station, a Southern Rail driver chastised a wheelchair user in front of a carriage full of passengers, saying “he has been told he should not be travelling at night”. With all that Southern Rail is doing in removing the right to ‘turn up and go’ travel, it is hard to avoid seeing this as a reflection of company culture.

Since it is now well known that issues around staffing and DOO are not solely the decision of the train operating company, we must address the Department for Transport too. Surely it is in the government’s interests to keep the second person on every train as this would aid people of various disabilities to get a job/keep their job, strengthening UK plc as well as reducing the reliance on benefits. There are numerous reports on the economic benefits of a disability-inclusive approach, without even mentioning the moral dimension.

We urge Charles Horton to think about the repercussions of these changes on others, who may be totally reliant on public transport. On behalf of ABCD members we would ask you to reconsider the damaging implications for disabled and less able passengers, and make the reasonable adjustments necessary to comply with your duties; considering this within the exceptional circumstances list specifically.

We look forward to your reply and ask that you address the matter of the precedents being set for disabled access, rather than repeating platitudes. The repeated assurance that there will be ‘more customer service than ever before’ does not hold weight when we are seeing the right to ‘turn up and go’ travel removed, and hearing regularly of discriminatory comments and actions from Southern Rail.

Sincerely,

James Welling, Sarah McStravick, Tilly Simmonds, Kaye McIntosh, Jo Bayly, Steve Salford, Edward Vermeer

on behalf of: Association of British Commuters Disabled Passengers

 

Fellow Southern Rail passengers who have been affected by access failures on Southern Rail are welcome to send their own copy of this letter, or use it as a template. If you would also like to sign this letter publicly, please let us know through our contact form.

Address the letter to Charles Horton, CEO of Southern Rail:

charles.horton@gtrailway.com

Copy the letter to:

CEO of Rail Delivery Group: paul.plummer@raildeliverygroup.com; Minister for Transport: chris.grayling@dft.gsi.gov.uk; Minister for Rail: paul.maynard@dft.gsi.gov.uk; Minister for Disabled People: penny.mordaunt.mp@parliament.uk.

 

ABC Passenger Survey 2016 – how much is the Southern Rail crisis costing us?

Our survey went out on December 10th, receiving over a thousand responses within just 24 hours. A series of 50 questions aimed to represent the effect on commuters’ individual lives and wellbeing over the past six months of the Southern Rail crisis.

Questions focused on the costs to commuters – covering time costs, personal impact, work impact, extra expenses and much more. We also posed in-depth questions into the everyday difficulties of travelling on Southern Rail, and the health and safety risks that have been a daily concern over the past six months of service breakdown.

A few opinion questions were inserted at the very end of the survey, in order to minimise the chance of respondents undertaking the survey with ulterior motives/ political bias.

Download the full report here: abc-passenger-survey-results-2016

 

 

 

 

 

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.