Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Let's Have an End to Commuters' Suffering

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Let's Have an End to Commuters' Suffering

Article excerpt

THE phrase "enough is enough" has been written and uttered one way or another countless times during the interminable Southern rail fiasco. Yet unlike Southern's services, the dispute just keeps running.

For hundreds of thousands of commuters, life has been made miserable for months. Parents have been unable to get home in time to pick their children up from school, individuals' arrival time at the office has become so erratic that they have lost their jobs. It is not exaggerating to say that this astonishingly long-running strike has ruined people's lives.

As most of us are by now aware, the dispute centres on proposals by Southern's parent firm, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), to move to driver-only operations on most of its services. The unions Aslef, which represents drivers, and the RMT for train guards argue that the changes would imperil passenger safety because drivers have to rely on CCTV to monitor the platform before closing the train doors, whereas a guard can disembark from the train and get a fuller view.

Southern's management argues in response that driveronly operations have been effective and safe on other parts of the rail network for years including Thameslink services, which are also run by GTR. Yesterday, HM Chief Inspector of Railways, Ian Prosser, declared the driveronly operation to be safe, assuming drivers are properly trained. Today, the Standard reveals figures relating to London Overground services which show safety actually improved after driver-only operations were introduced.

Yet the longer the argument has gone on, the more the antagonists have dug in their heels; every attempt to reach common ground has hit the buffers. For the unions, the dispute has become emblematic and ever more politicised, revolving around broader anxieties concerning the potential for technology to carry out tasks once undertaken by humans. But the truth is, this attitude flies utterly in the face of progress and of reality, and in the end it can only fail. …

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