Major disability charities congratulate ABC on leaking long-buried Rail Delivery Group report

Things are busier than ever for ABC, with our legal action against the Department for Transport taking place tomorrow, and numerous investigative publications underway. Today, we are honoured to say that our partner campaigns in disability rights have publicly congratulated us for our work so far.

ABC is now urgently crowdfunding for our legal action on government accountability and disability rights on Southern Rail.

We are due in court tomorrow, and will be informing you of the exact time later this afternoon, as soon as it is confirmed by the court. In the meantime, leading disability charities have written to us with their strong reactions to our recent revelation of a buried Rail Delivery Group report on rail accessibility.

Our application for a judicial review of the government’s handling of the failed Southern Rail contract has the support and backing of Transport for All, who seek to contribute numerous witness reports and expert testimony to our legal case.

  • Catherine Smith, Campaigns and Outreach Officer for Transport for All, said:

“It’s shocking that this damning report was hidden from the public for so long.

“At Transport for All we hear daily from Disabled people who experience discrimination on our railways – it’s truly shameful that the industry would knowingly push ahead with plans that will lock Disabled and older people out of our rail network.”

We have also received valuable input from Muscular Dystrophy UK, and thank their CEO Robert Meadowcroft for his words of support today:

  • Robert Meadowcroft, Chief Executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK, said:

“We congratulate ABC’s dedicated efforts to tackle the discrimination experienced by disabled rail commuters and are pleased to know that Trailblazers were able to feed in to this great work.

“The report they published yesterday highlights how the government are actively placing disabled people at a great disadvantage by pressing forward with their plans to run driver-only operated trains. Public transport journeys for disabled people are already difficult, being nearly five times longer, more expensive and more stressful than they are for non-disabled people.  

“Train companies often require wheelchair users to book assistance in advance, with 24 hours’ notice; yet we know of many stories, of people with muscular dystrophy failing to receive their pre-booked assistance and being left stranded for hours on end.

“Given that disabled commuters already struggle to get the assistance they need, driver-only operated trains will only make this worse.

“The government and transport companies need to put accessibility at the heart of future design and provision of services, including improving the turn-up-and-go system.

“It is clear, these issues need to be resolved as matter of urgency, before another efficiency plan is put into place.”

Please urgently help us raise essential funds to pay our ongoing legal bills!

Please follow ABC on Facebook and Twitter for more exclusive news and updates.

Exclusive: Buried report on rail access now available to download

Yesterday, we announced our discovery of a vital report on rail accessibility, commissioned by ATOC (now the Rail Delivery Group) and completed in May 2015. Nobody had viewed or even had knowledge of this document’s existence until now – despite the repeated calls from disabled people, campaigns like ABC and Transport for All, and even the Transport Select Committee; for proper oversight of disabled access during Southern Rail’s chaotic implementation of DOO.

It now seems that over a whole year of calling for impact assessments and a proper, transparent public discussion of the impact of DOO on disabled and older people; a report had already done just that and has been sitting in a drawer at the Rail Delivery Group for the past two years.

What does this mean for our legal case on Thursday?

The most ironic thing of all in the report coming to us at this time is the strong potential for legal challenge it clearly lays out. The Equality Act 2010 is a weak, ongoing process built by case law; and the breach of the Act occurring when Southern Rail runs unstaffed trains to unstaffed stations has already been said by many esteemed commentators and lawyers to be an extremely strong case if we can get it in front of a judge.

We urgently need your help to fund our ongoing investigations and actions and would greatly appreciate even the smallest donation or Facebook share of our Crowd Justice fundraiser.

With the Department for Transport preferring an “outcome-based” rather than a “compliance based” approach to the Equality Act, we believe that they not only exempt themselves from these rules, but rather fear new case law being made that will compel them to comply. The report states it is “highly likely” that this will happen and “likely” that this in turn will have an effect on the legal position regarding the provision of disabled access. It is up to us to make this happen.

A witness statement from last week

Both ABC and Transport for All receive regular, if not weekly, reports of access failures on Southern Rail. Here is the most recent we received; describing an experience that has become all too familiar to disabled passengers:

“I’m a wheelchair user. On the 23rd June 2017 I travelled from London to Brighton. I had booked ramp assistance for the outward journey three days in advance. But booking made no difference: platform staff at Victoria didn’t know about my booking, and when I arrived at Brighton, no one came with a ramp to get me off the train: station staff had absolutely no idea I was on the train. I was very angry. For my return journey, staff at Brighton promised to inform Victoria I was on my way. But on arrival at Victoria, again no one came to assist me with a ramp – no one had informed Victoria I was coming. These are NOT isolated incidents: it happens to me very often, and it’s upsetting and annoying and causes much anxiety. Southern Rail pays empty lip service to accessibility for all passengers, but the reality is that they don’t give a toss and refuse to implement policies and procedures which actually make the promised assistance solidly reliable.”

On Track for 2020? The Future of Accessible Rail Travel

The full report can be downloaded here:

On Track for 2020 – Full report

 

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Exclusive: ABC reveals buried RDG report on disabled access, which strongly advises keeping the guard on the train

Since launching an urgent crowdfunder for our ongoing legal action against the Department for Transport on Monday 19th June, we have received an anonymous package in the post.

The package contained a vital report on rail accessibility, commissioned by ATOC (now the Rail Delivery Group) and completed in May 2015. ‘On Track for 2020? The Future of Accessible Rail Travel’ has been kept under lock and key until now and we release it today in the belief that every disabled and older citizen in the UK has the right to be informed of its contents. It would appear that somebody within the rail industry thought so too.

Our researchers (a group of volunteer passengers) have now studied the report’s contents in depth – and discovered that it contains strongly termed advice about the anticipated effect of the nationwide trend towards DOO (driver only operated trains) on disabled and older people.

What’s so controversial about this report?

The contents of the report represent part of an argument over DOO that has received shamefully little attention by the press and politicians, many of whom have chosen instead to write off the unions’ concerns as “inexplicable”. We can no longer stand for the concerns of disabled and older people to be treated as “niche”; while out-of-context news about a “£75,000 offer” made to drivers is allowed to dominate the headlines.

We point towards the report’s own argument that the economic benefit of providing spontaneous access to disabled and older people actually far outweighs the cost. Of course, the economic argument is only necessary if the moral, societal, and legal ones are not enough! On the legal note, the report includes worrying implications in the statement that the Department for Transport prefers an “outcome-based” rather than a “compliance based” approach towards the Equality Act 2010.

The report supports ABC’s arguments by strongly distinguishing between metro and rural parts of the rail network, and stating that the practice of running unstaffed trains running to unstaffed stations is a breach of the Equality Act. It says definitively: “It is Conductors who are best placed to ensure that assistance is delivered effectively and in accordance with the law.”

Controversially, the report contains extensive discussion of the “clear trends” arising from the McNulty report in regard to de-staffing; and its authors repeatedly note their opposition to prospective policy changes that might allow unstaffed trains to run to unstaffed stations.

Why are we publishing?

It is clear that this is a high quality report, and one that was originally written for the benefit of both policy-makers and those who work on the railway. In addition to this, the near-total exclusion of disabled and older people from the DOO debate has gone on so long that we believe that the public has the right to view its recommendations.

The entrenched industrial dispute could also be solved right now with the provision of a proper”Guard Guarantee” – and this would have the benefit of ending industrial action on the Southern Rail network, just as it enters its second year.

‘On Track for 2020?’ is a comprehensive study and also covers aspects of rail accessibility about which its authors take a positive view. Because we have limited resources to reproduce our paper copies in full; we publish a set of extracts and an early synopsis of those issues around staffing and access that have been most relevant to our members. We also include copies of the report’s contents pages, executive summary and other documents; to redress the balance of our edited extracts, and demonstrate their context.

We have distributed the report to disability rights groups so that they may also contribute analysis according to their own areas of expertise. In addition to this, we will endeavour to produce a full digital version as soon as time and resources allow (unless of course the Rail Delivery Group wishes to respond by releasing the full publication).

Why has this report been buried for so long?

This discovery comes just days after the 6-month-delayed release of the Gibb report; just as journalists and MPs raise calls for a proper analysis of its editing decisions, and the release of the redacted Appendix Nine.

ABC’s disabled members have been very upset that the issue of disabled access was entirely absent from the Gibb Report. This issue has previously been absent from the RSSB report on DOO; as well as recent ORR publications, which focus mainly on the methodology of DOO and may not be providing adequate oversight of the activities of Southern Rail in regard to new staffing practices.

The Transport Select Committee emphasised the urgent need for a disability impact assessment on GTR in their November 2016 report, yet even now our campaign takes regular witness reports from disabled people who have been abandoned on trains and platforms by Southern Rail; often due to the absence of a second member of staff on board.

Ironically enough, the report makes for an excellent endorsement for our current legal case on disabled access, and notes that there is currently “very little case law” and that it is “highly likely that at some point relevant case law will be made”. It also states: “it is likely that case law will in future have an impact on accessibility”.

ABC’s resources are now stretched to the max! Please donate to our legal crowdfunder and share on social media

 

On Track for 2020? The Future of Accessible Rail Travel

Co-authored by Ann Frye Ltd, Rail Accessibility Ltd and MWW Transport Consultants.

Final Report, May 2015

This Report was commissioned by the Association of Train Operating Companies (now the Rail Delivery Group) to consider how accessible Britain’s railway network will be to older and disabled people by 1st January 2020 (the date by which all rolling stock must meet legal accessibility requirements).

Brief overview of the report’s contents regarding DOO and staffing – paraphrased as accurately as possible by the ABC team:

ABC analysis – briefest version

ABC’s own extracts from the report, with analysis

On Track for 2020 – with ABC analysis and extracts

A longer document of relevant extracts, including page numbers and references

On Track for 2020 The Future of Accessible Rail Travel – extracts with page refs and footnotes

Image documents:

Cover page

Contents

Executive Summary

Annex One The Legal Framework

Annex Two Organisations Consulted

Annex Three Project Team

 

To keep up to date with ABC’s latest news and updates, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

To donate to our legal crowdfunder, or get up to date on our legal news, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMPORTANT: a message to our supporters on our final weekend before the Aslef overtime ban

We wanted to thank you for all your support on social media. We are now well on the way to raising £15,000 and urgently need to be funded before Thursday – so if you can convince even one more person to donate this weekend, it will have a massive effect on our chances of success! This is a real David vs Goliath battle, as you all know.

This is the best link for sharing and it would have an incredible effect if every one of our backers could share it on social media and explain why they support our case.

We are now entering our final weekend of normal life before the commencement of the next Aslef overtime ban. Claims about just how severely Southern Rail is understaffed vary between Southern Rail’s claim of 10% and Aslef’s of 25% – either way, we know from months of suffering how bad an impact this will have. We ask you to join us in calling for proper scrutiny by the media and MPs on the real issues underlying this never-ending crisis of industrial relations.

There has been a lot going on in Southern Rail news this week and we’ve been doing our best to promote the call for proper public scrutiny of this ongoing crisis.

  • A lively discussion between ABC’s Emily Yates and LBC’s Nick Ferrari this morning.
  • ABC co-director Brad Rees talking about our court case in depth in this TV interview.
  • **On Tuesday, we were the first to break a story of alleged health and safety issues at London Victoria, later acknowledged in the Gibb report, where he stated “At…Victoria, pedestrian flows, gateline + concourse capacity are all significantly influenced by commercial strategy….”

We’re doing as much as we can to bring this situation to a close once and for all and badly need your help. Every Facebook share, tweet and – most of all – real life conversation(!) helps us fight back against a very ill-informed media and create a real chance for scrutiny of the government’s agenda.

Please help us to raise £15,000 by Thursday – and let’s do our best to avoid a repeat of the summer of 2016!

Please donate to our crowdfunder and spread the message to your friends and family!

Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates.

 

EXCLUSIVE: Gibb report expected to highlight urgent need for safety improvements at London Victoria

Today, we exclusively reveal photographic proof of important health and safety related work at Victoria station that has been postponed by the Department for Transport/Network Rail. We expect the Gibb report to highlight this concern, and wish to alert press and MPs to the fact that sources close to Gibb have now confirmed the report was ready for release on April 6th of this year.

The following images come in two pairs. In each pair, the first is a photograph of the current layout at Victoria, and the second a computer simulation from Network Rail of work that should have already been carried out to ease the overcrowding:

Victoria 2

Victoria 1.png

Victoria 3.png

Victoria 4

Senior Network Rail managers highlighted to Chris Gibb on a visit to Victoria station in late 2016 that there were problems with severe congestion for Brighton mainline passengers. The following comment, and everything else in quotes, comes directly from a Network Rail manager:

“There aren’t enough ticket gates for passengers using platforms 15-19. A rebuild of the gate-line was scheduled to have been completed as part of the congestion relief project in CP5 [Network Rail Control Period 5] but was postponed to CP6 [2019-24] to save costs. We made Gibb well aware of how ridiculous the decision was and how long passengers are having to wait to leave the station. We’re hoping he’ll recommend the work is carried out immediately – it’s an accident waiting to happen. This is work that was first planned 20 years ago”

The Network Rail managers informed Gibb that at peak times, passengers were observed queuing up to 5 minutes to pass through the gates at platforms 15-19.

Gibb also inspected the dedicated Gatwick Express platforms and asked why 12-car trains from Brighton were now routinely using platforms with ticket barriers designed to cope with far fewer passengers.

“It’s an unacceptable situation. It’s the first sight of London for tourists from the airport and we’ve had complaints from the Gatwick people who said the experience is costing them travellers”

Following a subsequent risk assessment, Network Rail identified safety concerns about passengers backing up in the confined space and the ability to evacuate in emergency. They have since ordered staff to leave a mesh gate between the concourse at 15-19 and the Gatwick Express platforms unlocked at peak times.

“If passengers knew it was unlocked they could skip the ticket barriers altogether, so we leave it shut but unlocked in case of emergency”

Victoria staff are now regularly asking control to hold trains outside the station to prevent simultaneous arrivals on platforms 15-19 and limit the flow of passengers, leading to knock-on delays on the mainline.

Platform 19, where the platform narrows to 6 feet in places because of roof supports, has been identified as a particular problem.

“We try to ensure the busiest services coming from the coast never arrive on platform 19. There’s a real risk that if anything happened to passengers, we could be prosecuted. When we’ve had a full train arriving – and then passengers for the subsequent departure heading in to the crowd – it’s been chaos. We’ve had panic attacks and even a kid slipping between the platform and a train.”

vic platform 2

 

Comment from ABC:

Please note, our pursuit of the Gibb report is part of a long-standing lobbying campaign for our commuter group and not connected to our legal action against the Department for Transport.

“Commuters experienced another night of chaos on Southern Rail last night, with an unusually high number of issues contributing to the breakdown of service, including a trackside fire. This resulted in delays, cancellations, diversions, overcrowding and skipped stations for passengers, many of whom spent hours trying to get home.

Though the majority of passengers have so far blamed the company, we feel duty-bound to step forward and share what information we have on the impact that issues at Victoria Station may have had on last night’s suffering. The above information from a Network Rail manager shows that important health and safety work to solve passenger congestion has been postponed at Victoria; and that this has not only had an impact on passenger safety, but also the flow of trains in and out of the station.

We are very concerned that if the current layout is struggling to handle the existing flow of passengers, it would probably be unable to cope with passengers turning back against the flow in the event of a fire or a security incident. This could be a recipe for disaster and we would like to see the risk assessment that has deemed the current layout safe.

The wider issue highlighted by this situation is the crisis of funding on our railways, which may have become too large an influence on planning and policy. The income from retail spaces is important in sustaining Network Rail, and may also form an important priority for the Department for Transport; in line with recommendations from the 2011 McNulty report.

We share this information today in the hope of enlightening passengers to the extremely complex causes of this ongoing rail crisis. It is not, and never has been enough to simply blame Southern Rail. It is the Department for Transport that should take responsibility for this rail crisis and we are convinced that they are still avoiding this responsibility in many crucial areas.

We already know (from a response to a question in the House of Lords on April 7th) that the Gibb report was handed to the Department for Transport on 30th December last year. In addition to this, sources have today confirmed that this report was ready for release on April 6th of this year. There is no excuse for the government to hold it back a day longer.

We are still at exactly the point we were a year ago with the Southern Rail crisis, and it is time for every responsible MP to stand up and demand the Gibb report’s immediate release – as a first step to removing this disastrous management contract from Govia Thameslink Railway.”

~ Comment from Emily Yates, co-founder of ABC and freelance journalist.

ABC is currently crowdfunding a court hearing for a judicial review of the Department for Transport. To donate, or get an update on their case; click here.

 

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.