LETTER: We need to end this madness

We’ve already had to endure months of mayhem and misery with more to come. How can this dispute be ended?

Southern/Govia talk about ‘modernisation’ and ‘improvement’ but this is actually corporate speak for a deskilled, destaffed and depersonalised service with lower safety and service standards.

The only improvement will be to Govia’s profit levels, while the costs will fall on the travelling public. We already pay high prices for rail travel and expect a first-class service.

It is now clear that the situation with the role of the conductor is about much more than door operation. The driver and the conductor are both trained to ‘safety critical’ standards. In the event of a serious incident the driver’s first priority is the safety of the train and the conductor’s is the safety of the passengers. This proposed change is the first step towards elimination of the conductor role, lower safety standards and lower service levels.

In a high security environment, for those less able and the elderly, those facing antisocial behaviour, late night travellers, this is a serious problem, and one for which the driver cannot be expected to be responsible. Nobody I have spoken to thinks it is a good idea.

Similarly with ticket office closures; judging by the long queue at the single open Lewes ticket office at 10.45am the other morning while the ticket machines were largely ignored, this is not popular with passengers either.

It’s also clear that these lower standards are being supported, perhaps even instigated, by the Department for Transport.

Conservative ministers are making ritual denunciations of the RMT union. Local Conservative MPs also criticise Southern/Govia but only offer to ‘press’ ministers, so come on, Nus Ghani, Maria Caulfield and others, be brave!

Tell the minister, who of course you are required to support, that the interests of your constituents must come first, that the conductor role must be maintained, and that ticket office service must be maintained until agreement can be reached with the unions.

The travelling public has tolerated this industrial relations disaster with epic British patience and now our elected representatives must step in to end this madness. Are they up to it?

Hugh Redgewell