As I board my third train of the day in an attempt to get from Brighton to Portsmouth, I sigh unanimously with a hoard of weary commuters. The journey should take approximately one hour and should involve no changes. In the three hours it has taken me to get to Barnham, I have faced two cancelled and three severely delayed trains, one of which changed where it was going whilst we were already travelling.
I am now awaiting a train which with each passing minute is becoming further and further delayed. I have already missed my meeting and it looks like I won’t be home in Portsmouth for at least another couple of hours.
This was mid-December. I am still awaiting repayment.
This January rail fares have increased once again. It has been estimated that the fares have gone up by 43% over the last seven years, whilst the state of the railway service becomes progressively worse. The last few months have been quite possibly the worst in history for rail strikes, delays and cancellations. Roughly 300,000 passengers board Southern Rail, arguably the most catastrophic of rail companies, trains each day.
Many people who live in Southern areas such as Portsmouth and Brighton are almost entirely reliant on Southern Rail to get out of the city via train. Thousands commute from Brighton into London every single day. The consequences of the disruption are therefore even more widespread than one would expect. It has put the jobs of commuters at risk. Passengers using other networks are then faced with overcrowding and, in turn, further delays.
Southern Rail have said they have been experiencing ‘extraordinary disruption’. Repayment schemes have been put in place, but thousands are still awaiting payment. Annual season-ticket holders from Brighton to London are expecting a £371 refund for their continuing struggle to get to work
In response to a BBC enquiry, Southern Rail said they are yet to calculate the estimated total cost of pay-outs due, claiming that of course the total amount is dependent on the number of people who claim and for what routes, although they aren’t actually funding the refund scheme themselves. The repayments will instead come from the Department for Transport.
With an upcoming trip from Portsmouth to London I have checked and checked again which train provider my journey will use. I have avoided all Southern trains and am travelling at specific times to ensure I do not have to risk enduring the terrible service Southern provide. A friend of mine is unable to return home to Brighton that evening. She risks becoming stranded in some unfamiliar town overnight if she chooses to travel.
We are all, as rail users in the South, stuck. We are advised not to travel or face trains which change destination halfway through journeys, become stranded for hours at unstaffed stations, and arrive home hours after our due arrival. We can all but hope that change is around the corner, yet the future of Southern Rail looks bleak. I fear this isn’t the end of the battle between staff and company, nor the struggle to simply board a train.
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