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Letter: Strikes Undermine Much Needed Passenger Confidence in Our Railways

Published on: 4 Nov, 2022
Updated on: 4 Nov, 2022

From: Jeremy Varns

Campaign coordinator, SWR Watch

In response to: South West Railways Faces Further Strike Action – Strike Day Services Detailed

Passengers face another round of strike action, with widespread disruption expected at the weekend and into next week. As has been the case previously, many stations will be closed entirely, while other lines will only have a limited service with a late start and early finish. With all sides seemingly digging in, a breakthrough in talks appears unlikely.

It’s unclear whether the new PM, Rishi Sunak, will continue with the proposed bill ensuring minimum service levels across the network. In theory, this could reduce the impact on rail users during future strike action.

While many may support such a move, it doesn’t detract from the underlying issues; high inflation leading to rising wage demands, reduced taxpayer support and a £2billion shortfall in fares. And, of course, if the economy falls into a protracted recession, this will further reduce demand for travel and revenue.

Plans for reform are delayed, much like the trains themselves. It’s a perfect storm, yet the lack of leadership and resolve to tackle these issues is becoming increasingly apparent.

I will shortly be writing to the current Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, to outline my concerns and highlight the urgent need to restore passenger confidence. If the government is serious about its commitment to sustainability and decarbonisation, rail must become a priority for public spending.

Unlike the unions, I take a pragmatic view regarding private sector involvement. We need to look at what works, and what doesn’t, while exploring new methods to improve efficiency.

Crucially, the priority must be to get more people using the train; endless warnings not to travel such as those issued during industrial action are undermining passenger confidence. By driving up usage we can close the funding gap, help boost investment and reduce our overreliance on private car use and all of the associated consequences.

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test 3 Responses to Letter: Strikes Undermine Much Needed Passenger Confidence in Our Railways

  1. Keith Francis Reply

    November 5, 2022 at 12:05 am

    I can look out and see that there are much fewer people walking down to our station than they were pre-epidemic.

    I recently chose to go to a special event in East Sussex using the trains as although it was more expensive than going by car it saved my having to drive home for two hours in the evening rush hour in the dark. Incidentally, the trains were quicker.

    I went via Clapham Junction from my local SWR station and I didn’t consider that each train being late by about 1-2 minutes was anything to complain about in the rush hours the train when the trains from Waterloo are almost full, as I expected. A Wife of a friend who travels quite frequently to London has to make sure that she leaves work promptly to be able to get on the hourly service train and hopefully get a seat.

    Where I am we are not going to be helped by the December timetable “improvements”. A cause of the lack of regular passengers is the number of people who, at our government’s initial insistence, following the Covid-19 outbreak, are still “working from home”.

    In the cases of two other friends who work for overseas companies, although they have UK offices they never expect to work at them.

    So, is Jeremy Varns the SWR Watch campaign coordinator preparing his objections to the potential further substantial increase in telephone charges of 15 per cent, or maybe more next year, made worse for everybody by the continuing high number of people still “working from home”?

  2. Martin Elliott Reply

    November 6, 2022 at 5:25 pm

    Has The Guildford Dragon NEWS asked for a view from the rail unions to put their points on this long-running dispute?

    Or a truly independent passenger organisation?

    Given the number of disputes, and today’s news on a nurses’ vote, there seems to be a vast movement against public services
    feeling working conditions and 0-2 per cent per annum salary are nowhere near acceptable.

    Editor’s response: A statement from a union leader or spokesperson has been included in recent articles on rail strikes.

  3. Keith Francis Reply

    November 10, 2022 at 8:10 am

    Courtesy of Mole Valley MP Sir Paul Beresford’s newsletter, I’ve learned there will be additional trains between Guildford and Waterloo via Leatherhead which weren’t mentioned in the SWR announcement.

    But who will be going at 05.57 and 06.54 in the morning from Guildford to Waterloo?

    Additional evening return rush-hour trains at 17.39 and 18:09 will be useful and in an attempt to reduce over-crowding, they don’t stop at all the stations before Epsom.

    So, having first gone to Waterloo at 15.58 and 16.58 will those two trains spread the passenger load? Time will tell, but maybe we’ll have to wait until the New Year to find out.

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