Southern rail operator failed suspicious package security test

The rail operator running Southern trains failed a suspicious package security test late last year, it has been revealed today.

Thameslink service
Thameslink service

An unattended bag was deliberately left behind a seat at the end of a Thameslink train’s journey after passengers had got off to test whether cleaners would spot it.

The incident from November came to light today (Wednesday January 4) after a memo from Govia Thameslink Railway’s crime and security manager was leaked to The Times.

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The briefing note explained that Department for Transport security inspectors had carried out the covert test involving an unattended bag, which was not found despite railway personnel seen walking past the location.

The incident has been seized on by rail unions as GTR is proposing to change the role of conductors on Southern services to on-board supervisors, with both ASLEF and the RMT raising concerns about the potential loss of a second safety critical member of staff on trains.

But the rail operator has claimed it is guaranteeing a second member of staff on Southern services, while in this instance it was the cleaners being tested not conductors as the train had finished its journey.

A spokesman for Southern said: “This was an unattended bag deliberately left behind a seat of a Thameslink train – not a Southern service – at the end of the train’s journey to test whether the cleaners would spot it.

“All railway staff are acutely aware of the increased security threat and we pass the overwhelming majority of DfT’s routine tests and investigate any that we fail.

“Our modernisation of Southern’s train service means there will be more people working on our trains, not fewer, and they’ll be able to give better customer service as well as looking for suspicious bags during journeys.

“It’s only while the unions carry on with this entirely unwarranted industrial action that we have been forced, on occasion, to run a train with only a driver which is better than cancelling the service as we had to do before we changed to driver-controlled operation.”

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